French power up their bid

France is pitching itself as a complete submarine power and vowing to create thousands of jobs in Adelaide as part of its bid to build the nation’s next generation of submarines.

Adelaide Advertiser
19 April 2016

French defence giant DCNS last year strategically placed billboards at prime Adelaide locations trumpeting 2900 jobs, seizing early on the political imperative for a domestic build of 12 submarines in a $50 billion project.

DCNS is promising, if chosen, to become part of the South Australian economy by starting immediately to create the 2900 hi-tech and manufacturing jobs — 1700 of them at Osborne’s ASC. These would include naval architects, marine engineers, electricians and painters. A further 600 supply chain jobs would be created, including mechanical and electrical engineers, along with 500 in combat system integration.

DCNS Australia chief executive officer Sean Costello has been playing up a French-Australian military alliance stretching back more than a century, including famed World War I battles and the continuing struggle against terrorism in the Middle East.

But the French bid has been forced to counter speculation it does not enjoy the same confidence of the United States as its competitors for the Future Submarine contract, particularly the Japanese.

Andrew Shearer, a former national security adviser to Tony Abbott, this month wrote it was hard to argue that, from a strategic viewpoint concerning the US alliance, that Japan was not the best international submarine partner for Australia. But Mr Costello, himself once a chief-of-staff to the-then defence minister David Johnston, says France offers a strategic partnership that directly interfaces with and complements the US in submarine weapons and electronic systems. DCNS also has highlighted close US, Australian and French naval co-operation in the Middle East, both in 2001 against the Taliban and now as part of aircraft carrier groups in the air war against Islamic State. But Mr Costello’s chief pitch has focused on France as a complete submarine power, that can safely design, build, operate and sustain any class of submarine on an enduring basis.

“Where Australia selects France, it selects enduring geopolitical alignment and surety of supply, a program of technical transfer to deliver sovereignty, a regionally superior capability and interoperability with our allies,” he told a Canberra conference in February.

“It offers enduring and leading edge capabilities for Australia in stealth, sonar and other sensor technology derived from nuclear missile and nuclear attack submarines, the return on experience from long-range patrols, nuclear safety standards and technology development pathways …” France, which lodged its Future Submarine proposal on November 27 last year, is offering a modified version of its Barracuda nuclear attack submarine, a conventionally powered boat called the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A. The French argue they have a mature submarine enterprise and Australia can have one too as part of the planned continuous shipbuilding program.

France’s DCNS is offering the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A, which it says is the world’s most advanced conventionally powered submarine.

Evolved from the Barracuda nuclear attack submarine, it has cutting-edge stealth technology including pumpjet propulsion.

Hydroplanes retract to reduce drag and noise and the company says the sonar is the most powerful ever produced for a conventional submarine.

New technology can be easily added via quick-access technical insert hatches.

The Shortfin Barracuda is 97m long and displaces 4500 tonnes when surfaced.

It has non-penetrating optronic masts, hybrid propulsion, X-tail rudders and built-in flexibility for future upgrades.