Sydney: Australia Friday announced that it would formally invite France, Germany and Japan in the bidding process to build its new fleet of nine submarines in a project worth $39 billion. “There’s Germany and France which are involved in a wider range of submarines and Japan which builds the best large conventional submarine in the world,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Adelaide.
Swedish defence company SAAB, which built Australia’s current Collins-class submarines, was excluded from the shortlist as it has not built a submarine in two decades, according to the AAP news agency. The defence ministry will invite contenders to present options regarding design and construction, including possibilities of manufacturing them in Australia or abroad or both, and is to make a decision by the end of the year.
Australia also wants the submarines to be delivered on time, by the middle of 2020, when the navy will begin to phase out the current fleet. Abbott said that the six Collins-class submarines would remain in service for two more decades and maintenance would continue to be performed by the government-owned Australian Submarine Corporation in South Australia.
He also said that despite foreign companies being given charge of constructing the submarines, his government would guarantee more employment in Australian shipyards. “Under any possible scenario there are going to be more submarine jobs in Adelaide,” said Abbott, trying to clear the air of discontent against the possibility of the country’s shipbuilding industry taking a hit because of the deal going into foreign hands.
The opposition and the unions have accused Abbott of going back on his electoral promise of building military submarines in Australia. Australia will invest $39 billion in the project, according to a defence ministry statement.