The French have moved to undermine Japan’s bid to build the navy’s new submarines, saying only a “complete submarine power’’ such as France can provide the strategic partnership Australia needs for its future defence.
Sean Costello, head of France’s DCNS Australia, says Australia and France are now fighting side-by-side against Islamic State but this strategic engagement will be entrenched for decades at an unprecedented level if Australia chooses to buy its new submarines from France.
“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,” Mr Costello will tell the Australian Defence Magazine Conference in Canberra today.
“I can make these statements with respect to France because France is a complete submarine power and has national policies to remain so. A complete submarine power is one that can safely design, build, operate and sustain any class of submarine on an enduring basis.”
His comments are a thinly disguised swipe at Japan, which has only conventionally powered submarines and has never built submarines in a third country before.
As revealed in The Australian yesterday, Japan is stepping up its push for the $20 billion submarine contract by promising it will fully share its most sensitive stealth technology with Australia if Canberra chooses Japan’s Soryu-class submarines. France, Japan and Germany are fighting a three-way battle to be chosen to build between eight and 12 submarines to replace the navy’s Collins-class fleet from the late 2020s.
Mr Costello’s speech moves to counter reports the US prefers the Japanese option for strategic reasons, saying France and the US have never had a closer strategic partnership in the post-war period.
“In recent years, and particularly in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, France and the US now share intelligence in a way that mirrors the Five Eyes network,” Mr Costello will say.
Close and enduring strategic links between Australia and France are epitomised by the current struggle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he will say.
With regard to submarines, he will say France offers a strategic partnership “that directly interfaces with and complements that offered by the US in submarine weapons and electronic systems. Together with the UK, the strategic future for Australia in terms of sovereignty, enduring regional superiority and interoperability is in joining this club of complete submarine powers.”
France is offering Australia the Shortfin Barracuda, a slightly smaller conventionally powered version of its new nuclear Barracuda submarine fleet.
Japan is offering a longer range version of its existing Soryu-class boats while Germany’s TKMS is proposing a Type 216 submarine, a larger version of its widely exported smaller submarines.
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9 February 2016