Does Australia really regret breaking the “contract of the century” with France for the supply of twelve submarines? The country, which announced in September 2021 the cancellation of this contract in favor of a new Aukus partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom and the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, will find itself a year late in a critical situation. The delivery of these new submarines may be much later than expected.
Canberra has not yet decided which of the United Kingdom or the United States will deal with the renewal of its aging naval fleet – and the discussion that should last eighteen months began in November to make a decision. But the order books of British and American shipyards are full, Australia’s new defense minister, Richard Marless, has reportedly admitted. France information et al “Le Figaro” This Thursday, September 15th. And the latter warns of the need to be patient before being able to receive the famous submarines …
The problem: As our colleagues have reported, the Australian Navy could find itself in a situation of “capacity rupture”, with planned retirements around 2040 of Collins submarines, without the country having new submarines for replacement before the end of the 2040s. A hypothesis that is difficult to imagine because the situation in the Indo-Pacific becomes tense, especially around the case of Taiwan. As a reminder, the contract signed with France provided for delivery in 2030.
Suggestion from France?
So what are the alternatives to Canberra? The construction of these submarines in Australian shipyards could be complicated – the island continent does not have the experience – and exclude the borrowing of British and American submarines, since the latter are already in tension. So Australia could resort to acquiring conventional submarines, while waiting for nuclear powered submarines. Several countries are being considered, including Sweden and the Saab Group, which are already filling Collins-class submarines for the Australian Navy. But France is also mentioned par l ‘«Australian Financial Review».
According to the economic newspaper, in July Emmanuel Macron was proposing to the new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to provide four. Contrary to the original contract with France, its construction would take place on the Cherbourg sites, rather than in Adelaide – which the Australian unions had already rejected, According to BFMTV.
The hypothesis gained notable weight with the visit in early September by the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sebastien Licorne, with his Australian Defense counterpart at the Brest Naval Base. But the Australian Navy would be reluctant, due to a lack of human resources to integrate a third type of ship. In particular, Le Figaro said it would study the underwater variant of drones.
At the moment, neither Australia nor France has publicly confirmed this possibility. It will be necessary to wait until March to see what strategy Australia has chosen with regard to its submarines.