The Royal Australian Navy is likely to scrap the deal to procure new Attack-class submarines from France due to the huge costs involved, according to reports.
The decision, if taken, would hit the French shipbuilder Naval Group, the original contractor for the submarines. The Attack-class submarines were supposed to replace the existing Collins-class boats.
Naval Group had won the Australian government contract for the program, also known as SEA1000 with the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design. The Attack-class submarines would feature new technologies such as air-independent propulsion (AIP), AN/BYG-1 submarine payload control system, among others.
The Attack class is expected to enter service in the early 2030s with construction extending into the late 2040s to 2050. The program is estimated to cost more than $50 billion and will be the largest, and most complex, defense acquisition project in Australia’s history [if it continues].
The new reports of scrapping the deal were revealed in the Australian Financial Review, which stated that top Australian defense officials are examining the possibility of replacing the aging Collins-class submarine with an “updated version of the original boat and cutting adrift the current contract with the French amid mounting frustration over cost blowouts and missed deadlines”.
When the deal was inked in 2016 with DCNS, the program cost was speculated to be around $40 billion, which has now increased to approximately $70 billion. This increase in cost has reportedly made Canberra unhappy and about how the project is being run so far.
According to the Financial Review, the concerns have escalated so far as being put up by Australian PM Scott Morrison to the French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I don’t think the submarine is guaranteed to be built,” a source told the agency. “Naval Group is still holding the design work and intellectual property in France and the Commonwealth is annoyed.”
The Attack-class submarine was selected against a variety of other offerings, including the German-designed Type 214, Japan’s Sōryū class, the French-designed Scorpène class, the Spanish S-80 class, and an evolved Collins class.