Oberon Submarines

H.M.A.S. OVENS was named after the Irishman and Australian explorer John Oven (1788-1825) who went to the colony of New South Wales in 1810 as a Lieutenant of the 73rd Regiment. He returned to England the following year, but after serving with distinction in the Peninsular war he returned to N. S. W in 1821.


Ovens was made Aide-de-camp to Governor Brisbane and became the acting chief engineer of the colony. In 1823, together with Captain Mark Currie, Royal Navy, Brigade Major Ovens explored some of the Southern Areas of the present New South Wales. Ovens was also responsible for the naming of the Murrumbidgee and Monaro rivers and he also noted that "the down country was bounded in the West by a snowy range of mountains". The Ovens river in North Eastern Victoria was also named after John Ovens.


The crest of H.M.A.S OVENS is a sixteenth century cupellation oven refining gold an illusion to the ships motto "Silence is Golden".


Since commissioning H.M.A.S Ovens had participated in a large number of exercises with both Australian and Allied forces throughout Asia and the Pacific oceans. In 1986 OVENS became the first conventional submarine to fire the Harpoon Missile and followed up this success with the sinking of the former H.M.A.S COLAC with a Mk 48 Torpedo in 1987. OVENS was adopted by the Shire of Coffs Harbour and so on the 10th July 1979 the ships company were given the privilege and honour and distinction of the Freedom of Entry into the Shire of Coffs Harbour. The ships company of OVENS actively supported the Coffs Harbour District Hospital as their nominated charity.


H.M.A.S Ovens completed her third and final main refit on 11 April 1991 at a cost of $Aus 64 million. OVENS was to be de-commissioned in order to make way for the Collins Class of submarines, currently being constructed in Adelaide South Australia. However, her period of service with the R.A.N was to continue for a short time as she was re-configured in order to be used as a working training platform for trainee submariners at Fleet Base West - Garden Island W. A. (H.M.A.S STIRLING).


On completion of this valuable service she was de-commissioned on the 1st December 1995 and remained at H.M.A.S Stirling in storage until she was handed over to the Fremantle Maritime Museum on the 17th November 1998. OVENS was then towed to 'J' Berth Victoria Quay where she had her batteries removed (two banks of batteries weighing some 150 tonnes apiece).


She will then be slipped for cleaning and conservation work. OVENS will be a centre piece of the Naval Gallery planned for the new Freemantle Maritime Museum to be built on Forest Landing Victoria Quay and will be a fitting memorial for all submariners who served and gave their lives during WWII whilst based in Freemantle Western Australia.






The OBERON class submarine was derived from the Porpoise class submarines which were the first major class of submarine to be built by the United Kingdom after WWII for the Royal Navy. The first Porpoise class was H.M.S CACHALOT which was laid down in 1955 at Scott's Shipyards Scotland.


These boats mere substantially remodelled in structure from the A and T classes of submarine. This class and some later A class, incorporated the 'Snort' underwater breathing system. The Porpoise and Oberon classes were probably the most efficient conventional powered submarines in the world at the time. They were noted for their near-silent running and their maximum diving depth of 300 metres.


In the early 1960's Australia purchased six Oberon class submarines the first being H.M.A.S OTWAY which was laid down on 29 June 1965 at Scott's Shipbuilding Greenock Scotland and the others being laid down up until 1973 when construction began on the last, H.M.A.S OTAMA on 28 March 1973.


By the year 1982 it was realised that the Oberon class submarines were approaching an age where they had to be replaced. In June of 1987 a contract was signed for the purchase of six new submarines to be built as a joint venture between the Australian Submarine Corporation and Kockhams, a Swedish company who had designed a submarine for Australian use, thereafter called the Collins class.


The Collins class submarine is slightly shorter than the Oberon class of submarine but, is fully automated allowing for a smaller crew of 42.


Sister Submarines to OVENS

No:      Name:      Laid Down: Launched: Commissioned:            Fate:

(57)    OXLEY        2-7-64         24-9-65           21-3-67      Scrapped 1992

Bow is on display adjacent to 'E" Shed Victoria Quay

Conning tower displayed outside submarine escape facility H.M.A.S Stirling.

(59)    OTWAY        29-6-65       29-11-66          22-4-68      Memorial N. S. W

Entire casing and conning tower displayed in a park at Holbrook N.S.W

(60)     ONSLOW     26-5-67       2-12-68           22-12-69      In Service 1998.

Due to be gifted to Sydney Maritime Museum at end of service life.

(61)     ORION        6-10-72        16-9-74           15-6-77         Sold Dec. 1998. 

            Due to be scrapped sometime in early 1999 at Henderson W.A.

(62)     OTAMA      28-5-73                    3-12-75         27-4-78         In service 1998




Built By                Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland.


Launched         4 December 1967 By Lady Slim - wife of Viscount Slim, a former Governor General of Australia.


Commissioned 15 April 1969


Displacement  Surfaced 2186 Tons - Submerged 2417 tons


Length               89.9 Metres (295ft)


Beam                  8.07 Metres (26.8ft?) Draught: 5.48 Metres (18ft)


Complement   7 Officers and 55 Sailors


Machinery        Twin Screws Two English Electric main propulsion motors, powered by two 16 cylinder Admiralty standard range diesel generators.

two storage batteries weighing 150 tonnes apiece. comprising of 448 single cells.


Horsepower      3500 bhp, 4500 shp


Speed                Surface speed more than 15 knots

Submerged speed more than 17 knots

Armament       Six bow weapon tubes capable of launching torpedoes or missiles, Armed with wire guided, dual purpose (anti-ship & anti-submarine torpedoes and equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

General             Storage for 30 tons of fresh water & 10 tonnes of distilled water.

Battery storage power of equivalent to some 94,000 car batteries.

Lubricating oil storage capacity of two road tankers.

Storage for the equiv. of 12 road tanker loads of diesel fuel.





25 Years Service


HMA Ships OXLEY, OTWAY, OVENS, ONSLOW, ORION and OTAMA formed the RAN submarine force from the mid 1960s with the first, OXLEY, commissioned in 1967 and the last, OTAMA, in 1978.

The first four boats were ordered in 1963 at a cost of $9 million per submarine. OXLEY arrived in Australia in 1967 followed by OTWAY, OVENS and ONSLOW in 1968, 1969 and 1969 respectively. The final boats arrived in 1977, ORION and 1978, OTAMA. All boats were built by Scotts' Shipbuilding at Greenock in Scotland.

Operating from the submarine base HMAS PLATYPUS, in Neutral Bay, Sydney the boats satisfy all training requirements and provide an effective strike force. Each Oberon can undertake a 30 day patrol, remaining submerged for lengthy periods employing the 'snort' system to recharge batteries and replenish air supplies.

During their careers in the RAN each submarine has undergone regular updates in both capabilities and conditions for the crews, most of the work being performed by Cockatoo Island in Sydney from 1977 to 1985 and later by the Australian Shipbuilding Industries in Fremantle. Some improvements have included the new micropuff range finding sonar, data processing and fire control systems to process and present all information from the submarine's sensors, an attack sonar featuring a redesigned bow dome and the ability to launch the Harpoon anti ship missile.


HMAS OXLEY became the first member of her class to be home ported to HMAS STIRLING when she arrived in September 1987.


According to one submariner the present submarine is "a tube of steel 18 feet in diameter and 300 feet long". Within this tube are housed two generators with the capacity of the Dubbo Power Station, two road tankers of lubricating oil, 94,000 car batteries, a kitchen capable of cooking cordon bleu meals for 64 men for several weeks, a supermarket of food, storage for 30 tonnes of fresh water and 10 tonnes of distilled water, the air-conditioning plant of the AMP Building, 22 weapons consisting of torpedoes, missiles and mines, each capable of sinking or disabling a very large ship, living quarters for 64 men, seven masts taller than telegraph poles, and several sensors to locate enemy targets. Surround this pipe with 12 road tankers of diesel fuel and you complete the picture of the Oberon submarine.


The Oberon class submarines of the Royal Australian Navy have achieved a status in the Fleet which relate to the class' unique capabilities as long range offensive platforms using stealth, independence and endurance to achieve the boats' objectives.


HMAS OXLEY paid off on 13 February 1992.


                                           Laid          First

No.      Name               down          Launched    Commissioned


57        OXLEY               2.7.64          24.9.65           27.3.67

59        OTWAY          29.6.65          29.11.66         22.4.68

60        ONSLOW        26.5.67          3.12.68           22.12.69

70        OVENS            17.6.66          4.12.67           18.4.69

61        ORION            6.10.72          16.9.74           15.6.77

62        OTAMA          28.5.73          3.12.75           27.4.78