HMAS Ovens

HMAS Ovens (S 70) was an Oberon-class submarine of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). She was one of six Oberons built for the Royal Australian Navy by the Scottish Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, and entered service in 1969. The vessel was named for Irishman and Australian explorer John Ovens (1788-1825) and for whom the Victorian river Ovens was named. During her career, Ovens was the first RAN submarine to deploy with the ANZUK force, and the first RAN submarine to fire an armed Mark 48 torpedo, sinking the target ship Colac. The boat was decommissioned in 1995, and is preserved at the Western Australian Maritime Museum as a museum ship.

HMAS Ovens at the Western Australian Maritime Museum
Builder: Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company
Laid down: 17 June 1966
Launched: 4 December 1967
Commissioned: 18 April 1969
Decommissioned: 1 December 1995
Status: Museum ship
General characteristics
Class and type: Oberon-class submarine
  • 1,610 tons standard
  • 2,030 tons surfaced
  • 2,410 tons submerged
Length: 295.2 ft (90.0 m)
Beam: 26.5 ft (8.1 m)
Draught: 18 ft (5.5 m)
  • 2 × Admiralty Standard Range supercharged V16 diesel generators
  • 2 × English Electric motors
  • 3,500 bhp, 4,500 shp
  • 2 shafts
  • 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) surfaced
  • 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) submerged
  • 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) at snorkel depth
Range: 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Test depth: 200 metres (660 ft)
  • As launched:
  • 8 officers, 56 sailors
  • At decommissioning:
  • 8 officers, 60 sailors
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • Sonar:
  • Atlas Elektronik Type CSU3-41 bow array
  • BAC Type 2007 flank array
  • Sperry BQG-4 Micropuffs rangefinding array
  • Radar:
  • Kelvin Hughes Type 1006
  • Torpedo tubes:
  • 6 × 21-inch (53 cm) bow tubes
  • 2 × short-length 21-inch (53 cm) stern tubes (later removed)
  • 1996 payload: Mix of 20:
  • Mark 48 Mod 4 torpedoes
  • UGM-84 Sub Harpoon missiles

Design and construction

The Oberon class was based heavily on the preceding Porpoise class of submarines, with changes made to improve the vessels' hull integrity, sensor systems, and stealth capabilities.[1] Eight submarines were ordered for the RAN, in two batches of four.[2] The first batch (including Ovens) was approved in 1963, and the second batch was approved during the late 1960s, although two of these were cancelled before construction started in 1969, with the funding redirected to the Fleet Air Arm.[3][4] This was the fourth time the RAN had attempted to establish a submarine branch.[5]

The submarine was 295.2 feet (90.0 m) long, with a beam of 26.5 feet (8.1 m), and a draught of 18 feet (5.5 m) when surfaced.[6] At full load displacement, she displaced 2,030 tons when surfaced, and 2,410 tons when submerged.[6] The two propeller shafts were each driven by an English Electric motor providing 3,500 brake horsepower and 4,500 shaft horsepower; the electricity for these was generated by two Admiralty Standard Range supercharged V16 diesel generators.[7] The submarine could travel at up to 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) on the surface, and up to 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) when submerged, had a maximum range of 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), and a test depth of 200 metres (660 ft) below sea level.[6][7] When launched, the boat had a company of 8 officers and 56 sailors, but by the time she decommissioned, the number of sailors had increased to 60.[6][7] In addition, up to 16 trainees could be carried.[7]

The main armament of the Oberons consisted of six 21-inch (533.4 mm) torpedo tubes.[1] The British Mark 8 torpedo was initially carried by the submarine; this was later replaced by the wire-guided Mark 23.[8] Between March 1980 and August 1982, the Australian Oberons were upgraded to carry United States Navy Mark 48 torpedoes and UGM-84 Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles.[5][9][10] As of 1996, the standard payload of an Australian Oberon was a mix of 20 Mark 48 Mod 4 torpedoes and Sub Harpoon missiles.[6] Some or all of the torpedo payload could be replaced by Mark 5 Stonefish sea mines, which were deployed through the torpedo tubes.[6][8] On entering service, two stern-mounted, short-length 21-inch (53 cm) torpedo tubes for Mark 20 anti-submarine torpedoes.[11] However, the development of steerable wire-guided torpedoes made the less-capable aft-firing torpedoes redundant; they were closed off, and later removed during a refit.[11]

Ovens was laid down by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company at Greenock, Scotland on 17 June 1966, launched on 4 December 1967, and commissioned into the RAN on 18 April 1969.[9]

Operational history

In 1970, Ovens visited ports in New Zealand.[12] The submarine visited New Zealand again during late August and early September 1971, and was used to train Royal New Zealand Navy vessels in anti-submarine warfare.[12]

In January 1972, Ovens was deployed to South East Asia to serve with the ANZUK force: the first RAN submarine to do so.[12] During the deployment, which lasted until June, the boat participated in SEATO Exercise Sea Hawk.[12] On 3 August, the submarine encountered the launch Sea Witch, abandoned and adrift, about 50 miles (80 km) off Newcastle, New South Wales.[12]

In May 1976, the submarine was sent to the Far East on a five-and-a-half-month deployment.[13] Before returning to home port, Ovens participated in the Kangaroo 2 multinational exercise, which simulated an attack on a coastal area.[13] Assigned to the Orange (defending) force, Ovens was able to claim successful 'attacks' on 170,000 tonnes of shipping, including the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.[13] Returning to HMAS Platypus after the exercise, the submarine sailed into Sydney Harbour claiming a "clean sweep" by lashing a broom to the attack periscope.[13]

Ovens became the first RAN submarine to fire an armed Mark 48 torpedo, when she sank the decommissioned Bathurst-class corvette HMAS Colac on 4 March 1987.[14][15] On her return to port, Ovens flew a 'Jolly Roger' to indicate a successful mission: the first time a RAN submarine had done so.[14]

The submarine made a port visit to Geelong, Victoria in June 1995.[16]

Decommissioning and fate

Ovens paid off on 1 December 1995.[10] The submarine was gifted to the Western Australian Museum in November 1998.[17] She is preserved as a museum ship at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Western Australia.[5]


  1. Chant, A Compedium of Armaments and Military Hardware, pp. 167–8
  2. Cooper, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 188
  3. Cooper, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 194
  4. Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 366
  5. Dennis et al., The Oxford Companion to Australian Military history, p. 399
  6. Sharpe (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships, 1996–1997, p. 23
  7. Shaw, HMAS Onslow, p. 15
  8. Shaw, HMAS Onslow, p. 21
  9. Sharped (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 1992–93, p. 22
  10. "HMAS Ovens". Ship Histories. Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  11. Shaw, HMAS Onslow, p. 19
  12. Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 369
  13. "Ovens' clean sweep in 'K2' climaxed long deployment" (PDF). Navy News. Royal Australian Navy. p. 8. Retrieved 21 November 2014. Additional context on the exercise taken from p. 1 of the same issue of Navy News.
  14. Richards, Bill; Smith, Peter (December 2006). "Onslow's Jolly Roger". Signals. Australian National Maritime Museum (77): 10–12. ISSN 1033-4688.
  15. "HMAS Colac". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  16. Begg, Peter (11 April 2013). "Naval gazing adds pier pressure". Geelong Advertiser. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  17. Collings, Jon (19 June 2002), "Submission 18: Department of Defence" (PDF), in Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (ed.), Review of the Accrual Budget Documentation (Report), Government of Australia, retrieved 20 January 2014


  • Bastock, John (1975). Australia's Ships of War. Cremorne, NSW: Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0-207-12927-4. OCLC 2525523.
  • Chant, Christopher (1987). A Compedium of Armaments and Military Hardware. Routledge. ISBN 0-7102-0720-4. Retrieved 30 July 2008.
  • Cooper, Alastair (2001). Stevens, David (ed.). The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554116-2. OCLC 50418095.
  • Sharpe, Richard, ed. (1992). Jane's Fighting Ships 1992–93 (95th ed.). Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-0983-3. OCLC 25930144.
  • Sharpe, Richard, ed. (March 1996). Jane's Fighting Ships 1996–97 (99th ed.). Surrey: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-1355-5. OCLC 34998928.
  • Shaw, Lindsey (2005). HMAS Onslow: cold war warrior. Sydney, NSW: Australian National Maritime Museum. ISBN 0-9751428-4-4. OCLC 225390609.

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