“We both reaffirmed our full commitment to the program, its timetable and the scaling up of Australian industrial capacity.” This Friday, the French Minister of the Armies Florence Parly and that of the Australian Defense Lynda Reynolds reiterated their will – in a joint press release issued after a meeting organized on the margins of the Munich Security Conference – of s join forces to work together on a construction program for 12 submarines for the French Navy.
“We are determined to work together to make it a success,” they added, recalling that this was the cornerstone of the Franco-Australian strategic partnership.
Australian subcontracting in question
In fact, the French group Naval Group (ex-DCNS) was chosen in 2016 to ensure the design and construction of these 12 new generation submarines, thus winning the “contract of the century” with a colossal amount of 50 billion dollars.
These conventional propelled submarines will be built in Australia, with a first delivery scheduled for 2032. The contract is to create 2,800 jobs in this country and at the same time employ 500 people in France, mainly in the design part.
The president of the Australian subsidiary of the French manufacturer Naval Group has, however, thrown in the water by declaring, in a recent interview, that the Australian share in the submarines could be lower than 50% because of problems of subcontracting local.
Naval Group faces “specific challenges” related to the Australian industry which it is only aware of, noted John Davis, adding to questions in Australia about the contract.
For the sake of appeasement, the two ministers agreed to exchange regularly to ensure the proper implementation of the project, with a next meeting scheduled for next April in France and another mid-year in Australia.
To correct the shot
“Everything is done so that the Australian industry is fully involved,” said Naval Group in Paris, stressing that 137 Australian companies had already been integrated into the project.
“There is nothing to suggest that the Australian partners will not be able to carry out this project. There are no plans to produce this submarine in France,” added a source familiar with the matter.
Critics also deplore the fact that the contract has already been slow to conclude because the waters north and east of Australia have become the scene of a bitter battle of influence between the United States , China and regional powers.
On the one hand, Beijing, whose territorial claims over most of the South China Sea (an area of vital navigation for world trade) are no longer to be demonstrated. On the other, Australia which hopes that these submarines will allow it to set up a credible deterrent in the event of hostile action … The geopolitical stakes are high. To be seen whether or not they will constitute an obstacle to the proper implementation of this program.