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Australia mulls Plan B in sub deal with France in favor of German solution, report

Attack-class computer rendering

After several delays in the planned delivery of a new generation of submarines for the Australian Navy under a deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group from 2016, the Australian government is reportedly looking at other options.

According to Australia’s ABC, Australian Navy Director-General of Submarines, Commodore Timothy Brown, is looking into the possibility of having German Type 214 submarines delivered way ahead of the delivery of the first Attack-class submarine sometime in the 2030s.

German submarine builder TKMS, who builds Type 214 boats, was one of the two bidders that was not selected for the Australian Attack-class program. Japan was the other bidder with a proposal based on the Soryu-class sub in service with the Japanese Navy.

The ABC report comes on the heels of a recently-announced agreement between the Australian government and Naval Group that was supposed to iron out problems in the program that is expected to deliver a fleet of 12 submarines that would replace the current Collins-class boats.

Other options currently on the table, according to the report, include more extensive upgrades for the Collins-class boats to allow them to remain relevant assets into the 2030s.

As noted, the Type 214 diesel-electric submarine solution does not meet Australia’s capability requirements due to its size and operational reach. Once built, the Attack-class boats would be the largest non-nuclear powered submarines in the world and are actually based on the nuclear-powered Barracuda-class currently being built for the French Navy.

This is why Commodore Brown’s study is focusing on whether the 214 submarine could be enlarged for Australian purposes.

Others have already pointed out that the process of “simply enlarging” the Type 214 might not be as straightforward as expected and that the submarine type being evaluated could actually be a Type 216 that TKMS is building for Singapore. Type 216 is much closer in size to the Collins-class than the Type 214.

It should be noted that Australian defense department officials are refusing to confirm the inquiry into the German submarine solution, noting that the office “remains steadfastly committed to building a Future Submarine capability in South Australia.”