The much-discussed Strategic Partnering Agreement between the Commonwealth and Naval Group on the future Attack-class submarines has been signed in Canberra today.
The agreement was signed in the presence of PM Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne, and Florence Parly, French Minister for the Armed Forces.
The SPA sets out terms and conditions that will endure for the entire program, avoiding the need to renegotiate a known set of provisions as work transitions from phase to phase.
Negotiations on the SPA began in early 2017 and were intended to have been completed during that year, but was delayed by issues including the length of warranty periods and the implications of a possible merger between Naval Group and Italy’s Fincantieri.
"Work on the submarines has taken place under the Design and Mobilisation Contract and this will continue uninterrupted under this agreement," PM Scott Morrison said in a statement.
"The formalisation of this agreement represents the contractual basis for the program.
"During the negotiations, the Government focused on delivering an equitable and enduring agreement in the interests of our nation. Other activities required to deliver this major program, including the development of the submarine construction yard at Osborne in South Australia, are continuing."
“We are grateful to the teams from the Commonwealth of Australia and Naval Group who have worked hard to achieve this agreement,” Naval Group head Herve Guillou said.
According to Naval Group, suppliers of the top five pieces of equipment - the main motor, diesel generators, switchboards, batteries and weapons discharge systems - have been reviewed and will be announced this year. 169 Australian suppliers have been pre-qualified for the program with Naval Group Australia.
Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne told ADM that negotiations on the SPA were completed in December, with documents finalised prior to the official signing. Minister Pyne also said that he is not concerned about the pace of the program despite rapid changes in the regional strategic environment.
"The important thing to understand is that the Collins Class is a very effective submarine; we’re not concerned about our strategic position in terms of having the regionally superior submarine," Minister Pyne said.
"We have a regionally superior submarine now and when the Future Submarine Program comes on stream, we’ll have a next generation regionally superior submarine then. We can’t hasten the drumbeat. The start date is already pretty tight.
"There’s a lot of work to be done between now and 2022- 2023."