SYDNEY – The Australian government announced on Monday the signing of a AU$50-billion ($35.5-billion) agreement with France’s Naval Group for the construction of its new fleet of 12 Attack class submarines.
In a “defining moment for the country,” the submarines “will help protect Australia’s security and prosperity for decades to come and also deepen the defence relationship between Australia and France,” said a government statement from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne and Minister for Defence Industry Steven Ciobo.
The statement said the submarines, which will be designed and built in Australia for the Navy, will generate an average of 2,800 jobs.
The Australian government is committed to maximizing “local industry” involvement in the program and “to ensure Australians get the most out of this important national investment,” it added.
It is expected to take more than 10 years for the first submarine to be ready.
“Work continues to deliver the first Attack class submarine, to be named HMAS Attack, in the early 2030s within budget,” the government said.
Australia decided in 2016 that the French Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS) would be responsible for the construction of its new submarine fleet after a tender, but it did not sign the contract until recently, after months of negotiations.
“The decision to partner with Naval Group … was made in 2016, following a competitive evaluation process commenced by our Government after the Labor Party failed to commission even one single new ship for our Navy. During the negotiations, the Government focused on delivering an equitable and enduring agreement in the interests of our nation,” the statement said.
“Other activities required to deliver this major program, including the development of the submarine construction yard at Osborne in South Australia, are continuing,” it added.
The work on the submarines has taken place under the Design and Mobilisation Contract which will continue under the Strategic Partnership Agreement.
The announcement coincides with China’s growing civil and military presence in the South China Sea and the concern in the region about free navigation in the main passage between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.