Monday, February 23, 2015

Australia PM derides Sweden's suitability as up-to-date sub builder

Prime minister rejects Labor’s suggestion that Sweden should have been invited as ridiculous, saying the opposition wants a ‘1960s submarine’
Collins class submarine
Tony Abbott said designing and building submarines was about the most complex, sophisticated process imaginable. Photograph: Torsten Blackwood/AFP
By Lenore Taylor, political editor/The Guardian
23 Feb 2014
has ridiculed Sweden’s submarine-building capacity and Labor’s suggestion that the country should have been included on Australia’s submarine-purchasing shortlist, saying Sweden had only refurbished ageing submarines for the past 20 years and had not designed and built new ones.
After months of confusion about the process, the government formally invited France, Germany and Japan to enter the contest to build Australia’s new submarines on Friday, allowing for construction in Adelaide and a possible partnership with Australian shipbuilder ASC.
Abbott said designing and building submarines was about the most complex, sophisticated process imaginable – like building a space probe – and just a few countries could do it.
“There’s Germany and France that are involved in a wider range of submarines and Japan which builds the best large conventional submarine in the world,” the prime minister said in Adelaide.
Asked why Saab – which has said publicly it would like to bid for the project and build the submarines in Adelaide – was not on the shortlist, Abbott said on Friday: “The last Australian submarine came off the production line in about 2001 … the last Swedish submarine came off the production line in 1996, so it’s almost two decades since Sweden-built a submarine.”
In a statement issued on Monday, Saab said said its work over the past two decades had required similar skills to a new design and build, and that it was about to begin building Sweden’s next-generation submarine.
Gunilla Fransson, the head of Saab defence and security, said: “Saab has delivered six submarines since 1996, the latest of which was commissioned in 2013. All involved significant numbers of design and production engineers with the same skills used in any new submarine build process. Saab is also currently approaching the end of a detailed design phase for Sweden’s next generation submarine and are about to enter into the production phase.”
Asked by Labor whether he had excluded Saab based on false information, Abbott said Sweden had modified 1960s and 1980s submarines over the past two decades.
“That’s what Labor wants, a 1960s submarine for Australia … bring back the Oberon submarine and give it to the Swedes, they’ll modify it and it will be as good as new,” Abbott said, labelling it a “ridiculous question”.
The prime minister said Australia wanted the best possible submarines for the best possible price, while maximising Australian involvement.
The government is hoping to draw to a close the controversy over whether Abbott has already struck a deal with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for Japan to get the tender, and end the confusion after Abbott made promises regarding South Australian involvement to an SA backbencher before the recent leadership spill motion.
Abbott again denied striking a deal with Abe, saying he had had more detailed conversations with Japan than with other bidders, but now would be having equally detailed discussions with Germany and France .
The South Australian-based ASC can take part in the tender process to build Australia’s new submarines, provided it works with an international partner.
Under the process announced on Friday, France, Germany and Japan will be asked to supply designs able to meet Australia’s requirements and options for construction in Australia, overseas or both, as well as rough costings and their positions on issues such as intellectual property.
The desired submarine will feature long-range and endurance comparable to the Collins-class submarines the Australian navy uses, but superior sensor performance and stealth.
It would be equipped with the US combat system and the US Mark-48 heavyweight torpedo, as now used on the Collins.
Abbott said taht under any possible scenario, there would be more submarine work in Adelaide.
The navy’s six Collins submarines would remain in service for another two decades and they would continue to be maintained by ASC.

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