Attack-class Submarine
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Attack-class Submarine

Attack-class submarine
Shortfin Barracuda.svg
Class overview
Builders: Naval Group
Operators:  Royal Australian Navy
Preceded by: Collins class
Cost: A$89.7 billion (2020)[1][2] for twelve units + TOT (est.)
Planned: 12
General characteristics
Type: Diesel-electric attack submarine
Displacement: 4,500 t surfaced[4]
Length: 97 m (318 ft)[4]
Beam: 8.8 m (29 ft)[4]
Installed power: Diesel electric with lead acid batteries
Propulsion: Pump-jet[4]
Speed: In excess of 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph)[4]
Range: 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 km; 21,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced[4]
Endurance: 80 days[4]
Complement: 60[4]
Sensors and
processing systems:
AN/BYG-1 combat system[3]
  • 8 x 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes
  • 28 torpedoes:
  • Mark 48 MOD 7 heavyweight torpedo, Harpoon anti-ship missiles or Mk III Stonefish mines[3]

The Attack-class submarine is a future class of submarines for the Royal Australian Navy, expected to enter service in the early 2030s with construction extending into the late 2040s to 2050.[3] The Program is estimated to cost $90 billion and will be the largest, and most complex, defence acquisition project in Australian history.[5]

The Program to replace the Collins class began in 2007. Australia's unique operating environment (including significant variations in ocean climate and conditions) and rejection of nuclear marine propulsion had previously driven it to operate in the Collins class the world's largest diesel-electric submarines, capable of transiting the long distances from HMAS Stirling to their deployment areas.

In the early phases of the replacement project, four design options were identified: purchase a Military-Off-The-Shelf (MOTS) design, modify a MOTS design for Australian conditions, design an evolution of the Collins-class, or create a new design.

In 2009, the Australian Government's Defence White Paper announced that a class of twelve submarines would be built.[6] The selected design was to be built at the ASC Pty Ltd shipyard in South Australia, but, if a company other than ASC was selected to build the submarines, they would be granted access to the government-owned facility. Early plans suggested the first submarine would be completed before 2025. However, there were significant delays in implementing the project and by the end of 2014, operational capabilities had still not been defined. In February 2015 the Abbott Government announced a competitive evaluation process between competing Japanese, French, and German designs. On 26 April 2016, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the Shortfin Barracuda, a conventionally-powered variant of the Barracuda-class nuclear submarine by French firm DCNS (now Naval Group), as the winner.[7]


Australian diesel-electric submarines operate in a wide range of geographic and oceanographic conditions, from the cold Southern Ocean to the tropics of the Coral, Arafura, and Timor Seas - requiring the submarines to handle significant variances in temperature, salinity, density, and climate. Australian submarines provide a deterrent towards military aggression against Australia, by patrolling the waters of Australia and nearby nations, and in addition, gather intelligence through the interception of electronic communications by foreign nations, and assist in the deployment and retrieval of special forces operatives. Because RAN submarines operate from HMAS Stirling, and because some of Australia's strategic interests are located as far afield as the Persian Gulf and the North Pacific, Australian submarines have to transit long distances to reach some of their potential patrol areas. This requirement for range and endurance resulted in the 1980s Collins-class design incorporating a large fuel load, large engines and sufficient batteries to transit these long distances, although technological improvements since then have enabled smaller diesel-electric submarines such as the German Type 214 submarine and Dutch Walrus-class submarine to achieve similar range and endurance as the Collins-class.[8] It has also been noted that the transit distances Australian submarines travel could be reduced by operating the submarines from HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin, rather than HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.[9]

The Collins-class submarine HMAS Rankin. The SEA 1000 project will replace the six Collins-class boats.

The Collins class were the first diesel-electric submarines specifically designed for Australian conditions of long transit distances and diverse sea states, and thus represent an 'orphan' design with no evolved design to replace them.[10] The submarines were enlarged and heavily modified versions of Swedish shipbuilder Kockums' Västergötland class.[11][12] Built during the 1990s and 2000s, the Collins-class submarines have a predicted operational life of around 30 years, with the lead boat HMAS Collins due to be decommissioned around 2025.[13][14]

Project history

The Submarine Institute of Australia released a report in July 2007 arguing that planning for the next generation of Australian submarines had to begin soon if they were to be replaced by the 2020s.[14] In December 2007, a month after coming into office following the 2007 federal election, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon announced that planning for the Collins-class replacement (designated SEA 1000) had commenced.[14] The SEA 1000 project office was established within the Defence Materiel Organisation in October 2008, and was being jointly administered with Defence's Capability Development Group.[15][16] In February 2009, Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt was appointed as project head.[15]

2009 defence white paper

The 2009 Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030 white paper confirmed the replacement project, and announced that the submarine fleet would be increased to twelve vessels.[17][18] Reasons for the increase presented in the white paper included the growing quantity and sophistication of Asian-Pacific naval forces (particularly submarine forces), the need to sustain submarine operations in any conflict, and the greater deterrent an increased submarine force would provide.[19]

Originally, the planned timeline called for concept work to start in 2009, preliminary designs to be established between 2011 and 2013, then detailed design work completed in time for construction to start in 2016.[15] This was to ensure that the new class would be in service before the Collins class began decommissioning in 2025.[15] However, meetings between Moffitt and the National Security Committee to clarify concept details and intended capabilities, scheduled for November 2009, did not go ahead until March 2012.[15] On 3 May 2012, the Australian government announced funding for the initial design phase.[20] The initial phase would encompass studies to select the new submarines' design, Defence Science and Technology Organisation projects to establish parameters for propulsion, combat system, and stealth capabilities, along with initiating programs to develop the required industry skills for the actual construction.[20] Under the 2012 revised timeline, the preliminary phase would conclude in 2013, with 'first pass approval' to be done by early 2014, and 'second pass approval' in 2017.[20] The best case prediction for seeing the first new submarine enter service, made in 2012, was "after 2030".[15] At least some of the slow pace and lack of decision making has been attributed to politicians fearing being held responsible for a repeat of the problems experienced by the Collins class during their construction and early career.[21]

Speculation of a S?ry? class decision

The S?ry?-class submarine Unry? in 2014. The Japanese submarines had been widely speculated as the forerunner for the replacement project.

Although the German Type 214 submarine has comparable range and endurance to the Collins class, and superior range and endurance compared to the S?ry? class, throughout 2014 there was increasing speculation that a Japanese design had been pre-selected as the Collins-class replacement,[22] leading to public criticism that the Japanese submarines did not have the range or endurance that Australia required.[23]

A September 2012 weapons technology swap deal and a July 2014 agreement on the sharing of defence technology were seen as preliminary steps towards Australian-Japanese collaboration on a submarine design, or towards integrating technologies like the S?ry?s Kockums designed air-independent propulsion Stirling engines and research into incorporating the Japanese boats' hydrodynamic capabilities into a potential SEA 1000 design.[24] Advantages in such a deal between the nations include the attention that securing the SEA 1000 project would bring to Japanese arms manufacturers (particularly after loosening of defence export restrictions in 2014), the provision of a proven high-end submarine design to the Australian military, and improved relations, both directly and as mutual allies of the United States of America.[25] However, it has been noted that co-operation on such a major defence project would be high risk due to Japan's lack of previous arms export experience, and any deal could negatively impact on both nations' relations with China.[26] The close personal relationship between the then-Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinz? Abe had also been cited as a factor in the likeliness of such a deal, although with the caveat that a change in government in either nation would compromise any potential deal for construction, or the ongoing maintenance support of the submarines: the Australian Labor Party has a greater interest in supporting local shipbuilding than Abbott's Coalition government, while a souring of China-Japan relations is something the Democratic Party of Japan is less likely to risk than the Liberal Democratic government led by Abe.[9][25][27]

By November 2014, initial capabilities had not been decided on, and recommendations were to be made across 2015.[28] In December 2014, the Australian Coalition government ruled out using a tender process to identify a new submarine design, blaming the limited time left before the Collins-class were scheduled to begin leaving service.[29] Although there was speculation at the time that the Australian government would purchase directly from Japanese shipbuilders,[9][27] in January 2015, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews stated that the government was still considering the options offered by European shipbuilders: ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany, Saab of Sweden, and a partnership of the French companies Thales and DCNS.[30][31]

In mid-December 2015, the Japanese Self Defence Force allowed a journalist from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to tour the newest of the class, Kokury? (black dragon), at its base at Yokoska and speak to the commanding officer, Commander Takehiko Hirama, and several other personnel.[32]

2015 policy announcements

On 8 February 2015 the Abbott Government signalled that both the selection of a design and selection of construction options would be competitive, and on 9 February 2015 announced a "competitive evaluation process" with the possibility of construction in Australia.[33] On 20 February 2015 the Australian Government publicly announced three key strategic considerations that would be taken into account in the competitive evaluation process, these being: that the future submarines would have a similar range and endurance to the Collins class, superior sensor performance and stealth compared to the Collins class, and that the combat system and Mark 48 Mod 7 torpedo jointly developed between the United States and Australia would be the future submarines' preferred combat system and main weapon.[34] The government also announced a three-way competition between ThyssenKrupp, the Thales-DCNS partnership and a Japanese design, while Saab was excluded.[35]

Technical considerations


Deciding the future submarines' propulsion system is closely tied to determining its operational range, endurance and stealthiness. Two basic options are presented in submarine propulsion: nuclear propulsion, and conventional, diesel-electric propulsion. The option of nuclear propulsion effectively gives submarines an unlimited range and endurance, only restrained by maintenance and human crew requirements for resupply and rest, and removes the necessity for surfacing to recharge batteries, an unstealthy and risky process. Australian governments have repeatedly rejected the nuclear propulsion option due to the lack of an Australian nuclear power industry (Australia would be the only non-nuclear nation to operate nuclear submarines), related issues of operational sovereignty were Australia to operate an American nuclear powered submarine such as the Virginia class, rendering it dependent on American technical support, and public opposition to nuclear technology.[36]

The second alternative is to operate a conventional diesel-electric submarine with sufficient fuel and battery power to transit the large operational ranges required by Australia, and to provide maximum range, endurance and stealth (operating underwater), before having to resurface to snorkel and recharge batteries. Previously, this design brief led to the construction of a relatively large conventionally powered submarine, the Collins class, possessing a large diesel electric engine, fuel load and sufficient batteries capable of transporting the submarines from their remote location at HMAS Stirling to their operational areas, without having to resurface for extended periods.

A further innovation in diesel electric propulsion which might be considered for the Collins-class replacement is air independent propulsion, which is not operated in the existing Collins class, but is operated in a number of more recent submarine designs including the German Type 214, Japanese S?ry? class, and French Scorpène class. Air independent propulsion performs the role of an auxiliary engine, providing submarines with increased stealth by allowing them to operate submerged for longer. The German Type 214 submarine employs advanced polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells that assist in delivering it comparable range and endurance to the Collins class.[37]


Batteries are an important component of diesel-electric submarines, allowing them to operate underwater for extended periods of time before having to resurface to recharge them. Improvements in battery technology in recent years have allowed smaller diesel-electric submarines to operate with greatly improved range and endurance.[38] Future submarine designs might use improvements in Lithium-ion battery technology.[24] The Collins-class replacement might operate battery technology superior to that of the existing Collins-class.

The Australian Government's announcement on 20 February 2015 that the future submarines will have a similar range and endurance to the Collins class increases the possibility that an evolved MOTS or completely new design will be selected.

Weapons capabilities

The 2009 Defence White Paper identified a land strike capability as an important addition to torpedo, mine and anti-ship missile weapons.[6] In February 2015 the Australian Government identified its preference for the future submarines to have a US weapon system and heavyweight torpedo.

  • Torpedo
  • Mine
  • Anti-ship missile
  • Land attack cruise missile[]



A German designed Type 214 submarine at the HDW building yard in Kiel, 2008. An evolved Type 214 was one of the options under consideration for the replacement program.

In the 2009 Defence white paper, the replacement submarines were outlined as a class of twelve vessels of up to 4,000 tons displacement, fitted with land-attack cruise missiles in addition to torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, capable of launching and recovering covert operatives while submerged, and carrying surveillance and intelligence-gathering equipment.[39] The submarines would likely be fitted with the United States AN/BYG-1 combat system.

There were four possible routes for the SEA 1000 project to take, in order of increasing design complexity and risk:

  • Buy a Military-Off-The-Shelf (MOTS) design without modification
  • Develop a modified MOTS design to better suit Australian service conditions
  • Design an evolution of the Collins-class
  • Design an entirely new submarine

Designs initially considered for the various MOTS routes included the German-designed Type 214, Japan's S?ry? class, the French-designed Scorpène class, the Spanish S-80 class, and an evolved Collins class.[] An evolved Collins-class design was also considered in 2013 but was officially dropped from consideration in 2015, due to it being assessed that the work required equated to composing a brand new design.[40] In addition, Saab pushed an enlarged variant of its Swedish A26 submarine, but was excluded from further consideration in February 2015 due to Sweden having not designed and built a submarine independently for twenty years.[40] Pure MOTS submarines were initially ruled out by the project in March 2011, but were put back on the table in December 2011.

Evolved designs of the Scorpène class have been offered, while ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, in additions to options for an evolved Type 214, has proposed the development of a brand new design, the Type 216, to specifically match Australian requirements.[9][27]

Selected: Shortfin Barracuda (France; DCNS)

On 30 November 2015, DCNS with Thales delivered its proposal for the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design (a diesel-electric variant of the Barracuda-class nuclear submarine under construction for the French Navy) to the Commonwealth of Australia's Department of Defence. It includes a Government to Government Agreement from the Ministry of the Armed Forces's Direction générale de l'armement (DGA) with a binding written agreement for aspects of the deliverables.[41] "While exact details remain confidential, DCNS can confirm the Shortfin Barracuda is over 90 metres in length and displaces more than 4,000 tons when dived," said Sean Costello, CEO DCNS Australia.[42]

DCNS was chosen by the Australian Government on 26 April 2016 to build 12 of the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A variant at a projected A$50 billion. Much of the works will be undertaken in Adelaide, South Australia.[43]

According to the Royal Australian Navy the Shortfin Barracuda will displace 4,500 tons (surfaced), measure 97 m (318 ft) in length, have an 8.8 m (29 ft) beam, use pump-jet propulsion, have a range of 18,000 nautical miles, a top speed of greater than 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), an endurance of 80 days and a crew of 60.[4]


The ASC shipyard in Osborne, South Australia. The original intention was to build the new submarines at this government-owned shipyard, even if ASC was not the successful tenderer.

Initially, the Australian government promised that the government-owned ASC, the company responsible for building the Collins class, would build the new submarines.[44] In a May 2009 announcement about plans to release a request for tender, the Labor government indicated that if a company other than ASC was the successful tenderer, that company would be granted access to ASC's shipyard in Osborne, South Australia.[44] Despite ongoing support for the submarines to be built in South Australia by successive Coalition and Labor governments, in July 2014, the Abbott-led Coalition government abandoned their pre-election commitment to ASC-based construction and opened up the likely possibility of building the submarines at a foreign shipyard.[45][46] In February 2015 the Abbott Government in announcing a 'competitive evaluation process' noted that the government would not approach the submarine decision with an 'open cheque book', but would rather allow a competitive process in which various construction options would be explored, including construction in Australia, overseas, or a 'hybrid approach' of foreign and local construction, along with estimated costs and schedules.[47][48]

Original plans for construction indicated a 25-year period from work starting to final completion.[49] Because of the lengthy construction period, building the submarines in evolving 'batches' was under consideration; ongoing research and innovation would see updated equipment and designs incorporated into new submarines as built, then added to existing submarines during refits.[50] As of 2021, construction of the submarines was scheduled to begin in 2023. [51] The SEA 1000 submarines are predicted to remain in service until the 2070s.[49]

In July 2017, Malcolm Turnbull opened the Future Submarine Project office in Cherbourg. Design work on the submarines is currently ongoing.[52]

The class was named the Attack class in December 2018, with the first of class to be designated HMAS Attack.[53]

The 12 boats will be constructed in batches of three or four. Each batch will differ from the one before as new technology and design features emerge.[54]


When announced, the Collins replacement project was identified as the most expensive ever undertaken by the Australian Defence Force.[55] In December 2010, an update to the 2009 Defence Capability Plan forecast the cost of the project as over A$10 billion.[56] However, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has predicted that the new submarines will cost over A$36 billion to design and build, with construction of each submarine valued between A$1.4 and A$3.04 billion.[55][57] Government predictions in 2014 estimated a total cost of up to A$80 billion for 12 Collins derivatives built by ASC, although ASC contests this with claims of a cost of A$18-24 billion.[9][58]

An unspecified number of S?ry?-class submarines, built in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation was estimated at A$25 billion.[9][58] European shipbuilder offers in 2014 were valued by the shipbuilders as costing around $A20 billion or otherwise being competitive with the Japanese valuation.[9][59]

In 2020 the Department of Finance indicated that the real cost will be in excess of $80 billion, which had been known as early as October 2015.[60]

Submarines in class

Estimated dates in Italics

Name[61] Pennant Builder Laid down Launched Delivered[61] Commissioned[61] Status Namesake
Batch 1
Attack Naval Group Australia and ASC Pty Ltd, Osborne Projected 2023[62] 2030s 2030s Ordered To act against aggressively with armed force. She will be the second vessel in the RAN named "Attack".

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d Department of Defence, 2016 Defence White Paper, pp. 91-92
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Superior sub-mission". Navy News: Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Navy. 59 (7). Canberra: Department of Defence. 5 May 2016. p. 3. OCLC 223485215.
  5. ^ Prime Minister of Australia, Future Submarine Program
  6. ^ a b 2009 Defence White Paper, p. 70.
  7. ^ "Australian submarines to be built in Adelaide after French company DCNS wins $50b contract". ABC News. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ "WHAT LIES BENEATH? Sea 1000". Archived from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Nicholson & Wallace, Home-built submarines deemed too expensive, too risky
  10. ^ John Thornton (31 July 2011). "Beyond the Collins Class: what next for Australia's submarines?". The Conversation. Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ Dennis et. al., The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p. 138
  12. ^ Woolner, Procuring Change, p. 7
  13. ^ Coleman, More problems with Collins class submarines
  14. ^ a b c Stewart, Defence to reach new depths
  15. ^ a b c d e f Kerr, Sea 1000
  16. ^ ABC News, 4.6m for next generation submarine study
  17. ^ Department of Defence, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century, pp. 70-1
  18. ^ Future Force, in Australian Warship, p. 24
  19. ^ Department of Defence, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century, pgs. 38, 64, 70-1
  20. ^ a b c Offices of the Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, and Minister for Defence Materiel, Next stage of future submarine project announced
  21. ^ McDonald & Snow, Submarines no longer all at sea
  22. ^ "Navy to get Japanese submarines". NewsComAu. 7 September 2014. Retrieved 2016.
  23. ^ "Inquiry rejects 'inadequate' Japanese sub option". Financial Review. Retrieved 2016.
  24. ^ a b Kallender-Umezu, Paul (29 September 2014). "Japan To Make Major Switch on Sub Propulsion: Lithium-ion Batteries Will Power Soryu-class Boats". Defense News. Archived from the original on 28 February 2015.
  25. ^ a b Hardy, After Collins: Australia's submarine replacement programme
  26. ^ "Abbott's plunge into submarine market is a risk we cannot afford". The Age. Retrieved 2016.
  27. ^ a b c Kerr, Analysis: European yards face Soryu-shaped hurdle to replacing Collins class
  28. ^ Kerr, Submarine chief: Canberra to get recommendations in next 12 months
  29. ^ Owens, Joe Hockey rules out open tender for new submarines
  30. ^ Scott & Reynolds, Australia gingerly mulls Japanese submarine offer
  31. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Defence Minister promises 'conservative' approach to submarines following tour of ASC
  32. ^ 'The characteristic is secrecy': Behind the scenes on Japan's state-of-the-art submarine, Matthew Carney, ABC News Online, 14 December 2015
  33. ^ Kelly, Joe (8 February 2015). "Abbott leadership crisis: PM woos MPs with $20bn submarine contract". The Australian. Retrieved 2016.
  34. ^ "Strategic Direction of the Future Submarine Programme". Kevin Andrews. Archived from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  35. ^ Patrick, Rex (24 March 2015). "Submarine v Submarine". The Advertiser. Adelaide. While criticism has been yielded as to the non-inclusion of Sweden's SAAB, the reality is that if only three candidates were to be chosen, the minister has made the correct decision. All three have pedigree, ongoing design and construction work and solid order books.
  36. ^ Dibb, Paul; Brabin-Smith, Richard (19 January 2012). "We need submarines, not subservience to the US". The Australian. Retrieved 2016.
  37. ^ "Siemens Website". Siemens USA.
  38. ^ Buckingham, John; Hodge, Christopher; Hardy, Timothy (January 2008). Submarine Power and Propulsion - Trends and Opportunities (PDF). Paper on Submarine Power and Propulsion Presented at Pacific 2008 in Sydney, Australia. BMT Defence Services.
  39. ^ Department of Defence, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century, p. 81
  40. ^ a b "Sweden barred from Australia sub program". Sky News. 25 February 2015. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015.
  41. ^ DCNS delivers proposal for future submarines, DCNS media release, 30 November 2015
  42. ^ "DCNS unveils Shortfin Barracuda" (Press release). DCNS. 15 July 2015. Archived from the original on 29 October 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  43. ^ Wroe, David (26 April 2016). "France wins $50b contract to help build Australia's new submarines". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  44. ^ a b Owen & Akerman, Labor reneges on submarine promise to builder ASC
  45. ^ Pultarova, Australia seeks partners to build next-generation submarines
  46. ^ McGuire & Shepherd, Defence Minister David Johnston won't rule out dumping plans to build submarines in Adelaide
  47. ^ "Cormann says no open chequebook for subs". The Australian. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  48. ^ "Strategic Direction of the Future Submarine Programme" (Press release). Office of the Hon Kevin Andrews MP. 20 February 2015. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  49. ^ a b Nicholson, New subs to be built in Adelaide whatever the pick
  50. ^ Scott, Horns of a dilemma
  51. ^
  52. ^ Benson, Simon (10 July 2017). "ASD upgrade to bolster terror fight". The Australian. Sydney. Retrieved 2017. In France last night, Mr Turnbull officially opened the Future Submarine Project at Cherbourg where the design work is underway for the next generation of submarines (subscription required)
  53. ^ Keane, Daniel (13 December 2018). "Future submarines renamed 'Attack class' but concerns remain about project rollout". ABC News. Retrieved 2018.
  54. ^
  55. ^ a b Nicholson, Sub fleet carries $36b price tag: experts
  56. ^ Kerr, Australia publishes second update to capability plan
  57. ^ Kerr, Australia tests the water for its largest-ever defence procurement challenge
  58. ^ a b Wroe, Australian-made submarines substantially cheaper than government suggests
  59. ^ Jennett, German shipbuilders ThyssenKrupp convinced they remain in race for Australian submarine contract
  60. ^ Anthony Galloway (13 October 2020). "Defence knew submarines would cost almost $80b five years ago". The Age. Retrieved 2020.
  61. ^ a b c Royal Australian Navy. "Attack Class SSG". Retrieved 2019.
  62. ^


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