French Submarine Maker Surfaces New Offer to Woo Australia

The French contender in a $20 billion contest to build Australia’s next undersea fleet said it won’t offer its cutting-edge design to other nations like India bulking up their underwater capabilities, as bidding intensifies for one of the world’s most lucrative defense contracts.

The French shipbuilding giant DCNS has sold smaller submarines to India, Malaysia, Chile and Brazil, but its chairman and CEO said Tuesday that only Australia is being offered advanced sonar and stealth technology similar to systems on French nuclear missile submarines.

“What France is offering to Australia is absolutely unique and has never been offered to anybody else in the world,” DCNS’s head Herve Guillou said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal at a conference bringing together bidders for the new submarines. “Nobody else will be offered, by far, the same type of package that we are offering.”

DCNS is a state-controlled company that is one of Europe’s largest defense firms, building submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Mr. Guillou said DCNS was offering Australia exclusive designs because it is a Western ally in the same region of French strategic interests in Tahiti and Noumea, as well as the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

Mr. Guillou said the Paris terrorist attacks would renew the focus of strategists on security against cyberattacks by terrorist groups or hostile states, as well as more on capable naval ships to support intensified land operations by soldiers.

“There [will be] a real gain in investment in military business,” Mr. Guillou said. “It’s unfortunate to say, but every country knows that when you are at war, you progress more quickly in technology, because you are protecting your own soldiers or sailors.…For submarines, there will be the emphasis on [transporting] special forces.”

DCNS, Mr. Guillou said, would transfer technology and intellectual property required to maintain the submarines, The company also hopes to use Australia as a supply hub for submarine equipment to other nations.

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Wall Street Journal
17 November 2015