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Australia, Naval Group iron out Attack submarine issues with new agreement

Royal Australian Navy Attack-class submarine
Photo: Naval Group

The Australian government and French shipbuilder and designer Naval Group have reached a new agreement that is poised to bring the Royal Australian Navy’s Attack-class submarine program back on track.

The agreement was announced by the defense ministry after reports from earlier this year that Australia could walk away from the deal altogether.

Pierre Éric Pommellet, the CEO of Naval Group, spent most of last month meeting with Australian officials to discuss the way forward in the Australian navy’s program to build a fleet of 12 diesel-electric attack submarines.

The amendments to the “strategic partnering agreement” will see Naval Group spend at least 60 per cent of the contract value in Australia over the life of the program, as a way of supporting Australian jobs in the defense industry.

The amendments ensure that the achievement of Naval Group’s commitment is now a contractual obligation, measured during the course of the program, driving Australian industry involvement as the Attack class submarines are designed and delivered.

Another point of contention in the program was the height of the contract for the detailed design phase, which has an estimated worth of between AUD2 billion and AUD3 billion.

Following the signing of the amendments to the partnering agreement, a detailed design contract is expected to be signed as early as next month.

“The amendments have been incorporated to uphold the current structure of the strategic partnering agreement, which the Auditor General concluded had established a fit-for-purpose strategic partnering framework that addresses this government’s objectives for the program,” acting defense minister Marise Payne said.

“These include maximizing Australian industry involvement in all phases of the program.”

Australia is building 12 new diesel-electric submarines under a contract from December 2016 with Naval Group delivering the submarine design based on the Barracuda-class submarines that are entering service with the French Navy.

HMAS Attack, the first unit in the class, is slated for delivery in the early 2030s. Australian submarine will measure 97 meters in length and will have a surface displacement of around 4,500 tons.