DCNS promises Australia exclusive design for cutting-edge submarines in bid to beat rivals for $20 billion contract
Shipbuilding giant DCNS is offering to build Barracuda submarines (modeled above) to Australia.
Rob Taylor, The Wall Street Journal
17 November 2015
ADELAIDE, 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.
Also vying to build Australia's next-generation submarine fleet are Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and Japan''s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.
Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne said the government will pick the winning company early next year, as it plans to replace its six aging submarines with eight to 12 state-of-the-art vessels. The two-day conference was scheduled long before the weekend's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, which Mr. Guillou said he expects will spark countries to speed up buying of sophisticated weaponry.
Germany's TKMS has also offered a larger and more advanced submarine than it has offered elsewhere. Japan, which has never before offered its proven Soryu design for sale, is hoping a sale of its submarines could solidify Tokyo's growing strategic ties with Australia, while also boosting the country's ambitions to take a greater slice of the global arms market.
Australia is one of many Asia-Pacific nations looking to modernize its submarine fleet with diesel-powered vessels. More than half of the world's submarines are expected to be in Asia by 2030, as such countries as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore look to hedge against instability by building undersea fleets, which are harder for enemies to detect than conventional ships.
Canberra wants its new fleet to maintain the advantage its small but technically proficient military has held over regional neighbors, including China, which is also modernizing its fleet of around 70 submarines as it flexes its muscles over disputed islands in the East and South China Seas. The submarines are part of Australia's ambitious naval modernization worth A$89 billion, which includes new destroyers, frigates, submarines and patrol ships.
All of the submarines being offered to Australia would give the country one of the most potent undersea forces in Asia, while adding to the capabilities of Australia's chief ally the U.S. Modern conventional submarines add to the ability of the all-nuclear U.S. undersea fleet by being able to operate in shallower Asian coastal waters and rest undetected with engines off on ocean floors-something nuclear vessels cannot do.
DCNS is offering Australia a smaller version of its Barracuda nuclear submarine against Germany's new Type 216, also designed specifically to prowl Australia's sprawling coastline and reach far north into Asia. Japan, which has fallen from favoritism after a change in Australia's prime minister, is offering a modified version of its Soryu submarine.
Australia's navy chief Vice Admiral Timothy Barrett told the submarine conference that Canberra would choose a submarine that offered unrivaled "lethality" in the face of Asia underwater arms race and which was able to operate "up-threat" far from home.
Uncertainty over China's intentions is driving Japan and South Korea to strengthen their submarine fleets, while India is also building six smaller DCNS-designed submarines in Mumbai, and may increase that.
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