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HMAS Otama facts for kids

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HMAS Otama sub.jpg
Otama in Western Port Bay in June 2011
Career (Australia)
Builder: Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company
Laid down: 25 May 1973
Launched: 3 December 1975
Commissioned: 27 April 1978
Decommissioned: 15 December 2000
Motto: "Unseen We Seek"
  • One of the "Mystery Boats"
  • The "Gucci Boat"
Status: Awaiting preservation
Quick facts for kids
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
  • Sonartech PIPRS intercept processor
  • 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

HMAS Otama (SS 62/SSG 62) was an Oberon-class submarine of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Built in Scotland, the submarine was the last of the class to enter service when commissioned into the RAN in 1978. Otama was a specialist, one of two "Mystery Boats", fitted with additional surveillance and intelligence-gathering equipment. Otama was routinely deployed on classified operations to obtain intelligence on Soviet Pacific Fleet vessels and Chinese Navy vessels, and conducted associated coastal surveillance, throughout Asia.

The submarine was part of the RAN's largest flag-showing cruise in the Indian Ocean during 1980. From 1983 to 1985, she underwent an extensive upgrade. On Monday 3 August 1987 , two submariners died when Otama submerged while they were still working in the fin. Otama remained in service until late 2000; a delay from her original planned decommissioning date to help attenuate the problems with the replacement Collins-class submarines.

Otama was sold to the Western Port Oberon Association in 2001, which planned to preserve her as a museum vessel as part of the proposed Victorian Maritime Centre. Submissions to build the maritime museum at various locations on the Mornington Peninsula were repeatedly rebuffed. In late 2008, the submarine was listed for sale on eBay, but despite several expressions of interest, Otama was not sold. In-principle approval to build the Victorian Maritime Centre on reclaimed land adjacent to the Western Port Marina at Hastings was granted in 2013, but as of 2016, planning permits have not been approved.

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. Eight submarines were ordered for the RAN, in two batches of four. The first batch was approved in 1963, and the second batch (including Otama) 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. This was the fourth time the RAN had attempted to establish a submarine branch.

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. At full load displacement, she displaced 2,030 tons when surfaced, and 2,410 tons when submerged. The two propeller shafts were each driven by an English Electric motor providing 3,500 brake horsepower (2,610 kW) and 4,500 shaft horsepower (3,356 kW); the electricity for these was generated by two Admiralty Standard Range supercharged V16 diesel generators. 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 (16,668 km; 10,357 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), and a test depth of 200 metres (656 ft) below sea level. 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. In addition, up to 16 trainees could be carried.

The main armament of the Oberons consisted of six 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes. The British Mark 8 torpedo was initially carried by the submarine; this was later replaced by the wire-guided Mark 23. After a multi-year refit ending in 1985, Otama was upgraded to carry United States Navy Mark 48 torpedoes and UGM-84 Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles; the last Australian Oberon to undergo the Submarine Weapon Update Program. As of 1996, the standard payload of an Australian Oberon was a mix of 20 Mark 48 Mod 4 torpedoes and Sub Harpoon missiles. Some or all of the torpedo payload could be replaced by Mark 5 Stonefish sea mines, which were deployed through the torpedo tubes. On entering service, two stern-mounted, short-length 21-inch (53 cm) torpedo tubes for Mark 20 anti-submarine torpedoes. 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.

Otama was laid down by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company at Greenock, Scotland on 25 May 1973, launched on 3 December 1975, and commissioned into the RAN on 27 April 1978. The submarine was due to enter service in 1976, but faulty high-power electrical cabling had been installed in Otama and sister boat Orion; stripping out and replacing the cabling delayed each submarine's construction by two years. The delay meant that the two boats could be fitted with Micropuffs rangefinding sonar during construction that the earlier built boats were due to receive as an upgrade.

Otama was the sixth and final Oberon-class submarine to enter service with the RAN. The boat's name comes from a North Queensland Aboriginal word meaning "dolphin"; this was a break in RAN tradition, which had used the names of explorers and pioneers for previous submarines. Otama was assigned the pennant number 62. The high standard of internal fittings compared to the rest of the class led to the "Gucci Boat" nickname.

Otama received a special electronic surveillance fit after Orion had been fitted with this during construction.

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