Royal Australian Navy chief vice-admiral Mike Noonan has stated that Collins-class submarine upgrades on the entire six-strong fleet may be needed to extend their life until the French-designed replacements arrive.

In a Senate estimates hearing, Noonan said that the Department of Defence (DoD) as carrying out an assessment of how many Collins-class submarine upgrades would be needed to keep them in service until the mid-2030s.

The Australian Government recently awarded an A$50bn ($35.81bn) contract to France’s Naval Group to build 12 new Attack-class submarines to replace the Collins-class boats, which were originally expected to retire around 2026.

The French firm is anticipated to deliver the first submarine, to be named HMAS Attack, in 2032.

Noonan was quoted by ABC News as saying: “We are yet to fully determine how many of the boats we will upgrade.

"We’re expecting that we will upgrade at least five, and the work around determining the scope of the upgrade has begun but has not yet been fully decided."

“We’re expecting that we will upgrade at least five, and the work around determining the scope of the upgrade has begun but has not yet been fully decided.”

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By GlobalData

The government has not disclosed the cost of enhancements and upgrades to the Collins-class submarines.

According to the report, the Senate also inquired about the extent of Australian content that would be included in the future submarine project.

DoD submarines general manager Stephen Johnson was quoted as saying: “It’s a sequential event so it’s a flawed strategy to set a percent before you have enough information.”

Last year, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne announced that the percentage would be more than 60%.