Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in France on Sunday to announce work on a new fleet of French submarines that will form the centrepiece of Australia’s defence strategy for decades to come.
Australia selected French naval contractor DCNS, last month renamed Naval Group, in April 2016 to build a new fleet of 12 submarines. The French industrial group, which is 62 percent owned by the French state, beat out competitors in Japan and Germany, winning one of the world's most lucrative defence contracts.
"This is the largest and most ambitious military project in Australia’s history," Turnbull told reporters at a joint press briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris on Saturday.
France said it was ready to do everything necessary to meet the requirements of the contract, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Naval Group was left fuming after details from more than 22,000 pages of documents relating to submarines it is building for India were published in The Australian newspaper, leading to concerns about its ability to protect sensitive data.
Australia's new submarine fleet is the focal point of its defence strategy unveiled in February 2016, which called for an increase in military spending of nearly AU$30 billion over the next 10 years to protect strategic and trade interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
The first submarines are expected to be ready by the early 2030s, with the the last ones finished by 2050. Following their conception in France, they will be principally constructed in Adelaide in southern Australia, which is home to Australia’s naval defence and the ASC shipbuilding organisation.
Building these submarines in Australia, along with the government's naval shipbuilding strategy, which begins with offshore patrol vessels and frigates, is estimated to create more than 5,000 jobs across Australia.
France and Australia formally signed the inter-governmental contract, worth A$50 billion, or €34 billion, last December.
The future submarines, called Shortfin Barracuda, are based on France’s Barrucuda submarines (99 metres long and weighing 4650 tons), which are nuclear attack subs. The Shortfin variant for the Australian Navy will see a conversion of the propulsion system to a conventional diesel electric bid equipped by Lockheed Martin, the combat systems integrator.
The Cherbourg facility will get its first personnel, who will work with Naval Group on the design of the submarines, later this year. According to the French government, some 4,000 jobs could be generated in Cherbourg over the next six years.
Bilateral security and defence
"It is not simply a contract," Macron said at the press briefing, referring to the national, international and strategic advantages of the submarine deal, which enhances the regional defence partnership between Australia and New Caledonia, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean which is part of French territory. Australia and France are already linked through the Franz and Quad regional defence agreements.
Marise Payne, Australia’s defence minister, said in December that the agreement would "set out the legal framework under which Australia and France will partner on the future submarine programme over the coming decades."
The aim was to give Australia a fleet that would be “superior” on the regional level.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-07-09