Paris and Canberra signed an agreement "Strategic partnership" for the construction of 12 submarines for the Australian Navy. This fifty-year contract is the largest agreement ever concluded by the continent island.
Fifty billion Australian dollars (31.2 billion euros) is the sum that will let go Canberra for his project of twelve submarines emerged. Australia has turned to the French industrial Naval Group for the construction of these vessels, after the former DCNS won an international tender in 2016.
" We are committed to delivering a world-class program to Australia Said Monday, February 11 to Canberra Hervé Guillou, CEO of Naval Group, while he signed with the Australian government an agreement to "Strategic partnership". For France as for its economic partner, it is a historic contract over fifty years that ensures them a prosperous future in the naval industry.
"Deepen defense relations"
"It's a decisive moment for Australia"assured Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne, along with Florence Parly, French Minister of Arms, who made the trip. "These submarines will deepen defense relations [entre les deux pays] and help protect Australia's security and prosperity for decades to come ".
Premier Scott Morrison, meanwhile, praised "A very ambitious plan". This is the "Largest defense investment in peacetime by Australia". The country wants to increase its military and economic presence in the Pacific, while the influence of China and the United States grows in the South China Sea.
Since choosing Naval Group in 2016, eighteen months of discussions have been necessary to reach an agreement with Camberra. "We are committed to making future submarines superior to those they are likely to encounter in the region. And this superiority will be found in its ability of acoustic discretion "says a spokesman for Naval Group.
500 jobs within a few years in France
The French company is in charge of the design and construction of the latest generation submarines. If the contract has already generated 350 jobs in Cherbourg, Angouleme, Nantes and Toulon, the group plans to employ 500 people on this program in a few years in France. However, construction will take place in Adelaide (southern Australia) with 2,800 direct and indirect jobs at stake.
The cutting of the first sheet is planned for 2023 " for a delivery early 2030s »says the spokesman. " Then, a submarine will be released every two years until the 2040s ". Former Australian naval officers have questioned these dates in recent days, saying the country may miss submarines for more than a decade.
Part of the contract will go to the US group Lockheed Martin, which, under another agreement, will provide the combat system, the "brain" of the boat and armament. Naval Group could get at least 8 billion euros, figure that the spokesman takes with tweezers: "The approximately 31 billion euros are planned over 50 years. Numerous programs and contracts will come out of this agreement and we are not yet able to know how much Naval will land. "
Cousins of the French Barracuda
The next step for the French industrialist is the signing, within a few weeks, of the design contract and design (design) submarines estimated at 1.5 billion euros. Kinds of cousins of the French Barracuda, " the difference is that they are diesel electric and non-nuclear propulsion as in France, because the French state prohibits the export of nuclear in this area, under the non-proliferation treaties "says the Naval Group spokesman. The Australian government requires ships to travel long distances and to be able to dive for long periods of patrolling.
For Naval Group, this colossal agreement is the hope of landing other contracts abroad. Hervé Guillou estimates "To be in a better position for tenders in the Netherlands but also in Poland and India".
Large conventional-propelled submarines
Submarines sold to Australia are among the "Larger conventional powered submarines", with a hundred meters long, about 5,000 tons of travel, for a crew of several dozen people. The usual models move between 1,500 and 2,500 tonnes usually, according to Naval Group. Their great capacity must give them the means to carry out distant patrols.
The submarines will not be nuclear propulsion like the French Barracuda, but "Conventional, diesel / electric". This is a big difference: while a nuclear powered submarine can stay under water for a very long time, a conventional propulsion model resurfaces at regular intervals. The frequency of this return to the surface is a "Rather confidential subject", says the constructor.
Lilas-Apollonia Fournier (in Melbourne)