French shipbuilder to be held accountable on commitment to build Australian submarines: defense minister

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-14 10:42:45|Editor: zyl
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CANBERRA, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Australia's defense minister has declared that France's Naval Group will be held accountable on its commitment to build a new fleet of submarines locally.

Naval Group, then DCNS, was in 2016 awarded the contract to build Australia's new fleet of 12 attack-class submarines. It is known as the largest defense project in Australian history.

Under the agreement, the two parties agreed that a significant portion of the construction work would be done in Australia.

However, Naval Group Australia chief executive John Davis on Thursday questioned the capability of the local industry, telling News Corp Australia that the company "didn't know the Australian market before we joined the program."

"Now we have a much deeper insight, and we recognize there is a lot more work to be done than we anticipated," he said.

In response, Defense Minister Linda Reynolds expressed her disappointment and said she would discuss the issue during a meeting with her French counterpart, Florence Parly, at the Munich Security Conference on Friday.

"I am disappointed by the comments attributed to Naval Group Australia on the Future Submarine Program as they do not reflect the strong collaboration between Naval Group and Australian industry on this program of national significance," she said in a statement.

"Our Government will hold Naval Group to account for the commitments they signed on for to work with Australia's world-leading defense and shipbuilding industry."

It is the latest in a long line of issues that have plagued the submarines program since Naval Group was awarded the contract.

The cost of the project was initially put at 50 billion Australian dollars (33.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016.

But Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Greg Sammut told a Parliamentary budget committee in November that building the submarines was now expected to cost 80 billion AUD (53.7 billion USD), with maintenance through to 2080 to cost a further 145 billion AUD (97.4 billion USD).

An audit of the project released by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in January revealed that the Australian Defense Force (ADF) was advised to abandon the deal with Naval Group by the independent Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board (NSAB).