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August 2008 Issue
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Engineers target submarine stealth


Australia's Collins Class submarines could benefit from new research at the University of Adelaide that aims to improve their stealth capabilities.

Submarines are designed to be undetectable and rely on stealth to operate effectively. But keeping such a large vessel quiet is a huge challenge.

The University's School of Mechanical Engineering has received funding of $530,000 to investigate a new stealth solution for the Collins Class submarines. The funding has been provided under the Department of Defence's Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) Program, which is managed by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

"The Collins Class submarines are propelled by electric motors, which makes them almost silent," said research leader Dr Carl Howard from the School of Mechanical Engineering.

"However, if the batteries that power the electric motors become flat, they must be recharged with an electrical generator that is powered by a diesel engine. During the recharging operation the noise from the diesel engines reduces the stealth capabilities of the submarine. The aim of the project is to improve the stealth of the submarine during the recharging operation."

Dr Howard will conduct laboratory testing on improved vibration absorbers to reduce the noise - or "acoustic signature" - of the submarine.

"If the tests prove fruitful, this work could be vital in improving the operational effectiveness of the submarines," he said.

Dr Howard's work builds on the expertise within the University's Acoustics, Vibration and Control research group, which has been researching solutions for industry for more than 20 years. It also builds on the University of Adelaide's longstanding research partnership with the DSTO.

The University of Adelaide is also a partner in another CTD project aimed at creating miniaturised GPS anti-jam modules that can be easily fitted to Defence Force vehicles. The funding for this project has been awarded to Tenix Systems. Mr Matthew Trinkle from the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering is a collaborative partner in this research.

The University of Adelaide has considerable strengths in research and education that relate specifically to the defence and security industries. Among various Masters-level degree programs run by the University are a Master of Marine Engineering, offered in conjunction with Australian defence company ASC, and a Master of Sciences (Defence Signal Information Processing), which is part of the Continuing Education Initiative program conducted by DSTO.

For more information about defence and security research and education at the University, visit:

Story by David Ellis

For more information about studies in Engineering visit Open Day (Sunday 17 August).

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Collins Class submarine HMAS Waller
Photo by ABPH Bill Louys, courtesy of the Department of Defence

Collins Class submarine HMAS Waller
Photo by ABPH Bill Louys, courtesy of the Department of Defence

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