Naval Group is drawing on 100 years of submarine design and build expertise to usher in a new era of Australian submarine sovereignty, and it’s helping to shine a spotlight on South Australia, both nationally, and internationally.
If you picked up a copy of The Australian over the weekend you would have come across Future Adelaide, the beautifully visual lift-out showcasing the inspiring stories and opportunities SA has to offer, and Naval Group Australia is proud to feature.
In the latest edition of Future Adelaide our warship director, Gerard Autret, shares his story of relocating to Adelaide after more than three decades working in French Naval engineering.
He is tasked to put together an engineering team that will be able to perform the detailed design of the submarines and support the build program over the next two decades, with teams of Australian engineers currently enrolled in three-year deployments at the Cherbourg Naval Base in France to help achieve this.
“The design of the submarine is very specific, very complex,” Gerard says. “I believe it is one of the most difficult products to design, so you need to understand the process. The technologies used are also quite specific, which is what the team in France is learning. The goal is for them to be able to understand the design process and its intent to be able then to finish the design and sustain the submarines in Australia.”
Naval Group’s methods and tools engineer Georgia McLinden (centre in header image) has spent the past six months in Cherbourg as part of that team, and she says it has been a welcoming experience. “My work team has been fantastic at integrating us”, Georgia says. “We are speaking quite a bit of French but also our colleagues are improving their English really quickly. You have a lot of people here with a wealth of knowledge, which is really cool. And we’re amazed by how much is going on, how beautiful it is.”
Georgia (centre) is enjoying living and working in France with Australian colleagues James Wilkes, Naval Architect (left) and Justin Montgomery, Mechanical Engineer (right).
Like his counterpart in France, Gerard has also settled well on foreign soil. His wife Laurence teaches French at Highgate Primary while his daughter is keen to move to Adelaide after finishing University. “It feels like home”, Gerard says. “We have Australian friends; every Saturday I ride my bicycle with a group of mainly Australian people. Adelaide is quite close to a European city: you can walk at night, it’s big enough, you can find a lot of restaurants, bars, concerts. Our objective is to stay in Adelaide for as long as possible.”
(L-R) Australian Warship Director Gerard Autret and his wife, French teacher Laurence, hope to stay in South Australia for as long as possible.
As the project develops over the coming years, so will employment opportunities within the industry continue to grow. Naval Group Australia CEO John Davis says “at present we have 150 staff in our core team / we will get up to about 200 by year end and will be at about 1,700 by 2028. We’ll then augment our core workforce with contractor support, which means probably about one-third of our final workforce will be Australian contractors working in the shipyard with us – about 2,600 people all in. It’s a massive employment opportunity.
“ At this point in time in South Australia we have the submarine, frigate and offshore patrol vessel programs: without doubt, we are the principal driver for the future workforce in submarine and service combatant activity. It’s fantastic.”