France and Australia are set to sign a multibillion dollar deal for the construction of 12 cutting-edge nuclear powered submarines. The deal has already been branded the “defense contract of the century” by Paris.
French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Australia on Sunday. Together with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he announced that they are set to sign a contract in the Australian city of Adelaide on Tuesday, AFP reported.
Under the contract, French industrial shipbuilder DNCS will set up a branch in Adelaide to build scaled-down versions of France's 4,700-tonne Barracuda stealth submarines, nuclear-fuelled attack submarines that are among the world's best to date.
The 12 new submarines – called Shortfin Barracuda after a predatory fish found in Australian waters – will be 4,500-ton diesel-electric vessels with a pump jet-propulsion system that will offer quieter traveling capabilities than the original DNCS Barracudas.
The overall cost of the submarine fleet, which includes separate agreements with US and Australian contractors, is said to total Aus$50 billion (US$37bn).
However, Australian and French defense ministers both said they were committed to concealing the exact details of the current contract after data on DNCS’s previous deal – Scorpene submarines, which were designed for the Indian navy – were leaked.
Australia denied security concerns, while Le Drian said that the leaks were currently being investigated in France.
He added that France and Australia had signed an agreement on handling classified information. The deal to build a dozen submarines has been described by Paris as the “contract of the century,” according to the French media. Australia awarded DCNS the contract back in April this year.
Initially, three groups – Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, France's DCNS and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – submitted bids to secure what is known as the largest contract in Australian naval history. Australia chose France, however, with Malcolm Turnbull declaring that the French offer "presented the best capacities to meet the unique needs" of his country.