• The Shortfin Barracuda is the reference design being offered by DCNS Australia for Sea 1000. Credit: DCNS Australia
    The Shortfin Barracuda is the reference design being offered by DCNS Australia for Sea 1000. Credit: DCNS Australia

Katherine Ziesing | Canberra

Updated 2:12pm AEST Thurs 17 Sep

Under the Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) for Sea 1000, all three contenders are putting together three options for government to consider; a local build in Australia, a hybrid build where the government decides the balance of boats to be built at a contender's home shipyard and in Australia; and a purely overseas build.

Thanks to politics being what they are in Australia, the final option of a purely overseas build in either Germany, Japan or France is a non-starter essentially, but each contender will still price/explore this option in order to be compliant with the CEP.

Speaking to media this week, the DCNS senior leadership team of Sean Costello and Brent Clark explained how the company is approaching both the hybrid and Australia-based builds.

“There will be the same industrial outcome for Australia under either a hybrid or overseas build,” Costello said. “Under our hybrid model, roughly 70 per cent of the work would be performed in Australia.”

Costello also confirmed that regardless of the solution chosen by the Commonwealth, be it hybrid or local build, the same number of Australian jobs would be created.

Should the Commonwealth select the hybrid model, the first boat would be built at their Cherbourg facility with an Australian engineering team also on site. This would allow the first of type issues to be ironed out in the most efficient way possible, the gentlemen explained.

“Anyone that tells you that a first of class of any ship or submarine that you build won’t have issues is lying to you,” Clark commented. “You need to be able to build the first one, make modifications to it, make design drawing changes, and then from our perspective, you need to be able to transfer everything in terms of IP, technology, know-how because that is what the Commonwealth has asked for. Doing that in Australia is absolutely feasible and very possible but it will take longer.”

The balance of the boats would then be built in Adelaide with that core of Australian engineers trained in France overseeing efforts.

With a purely local build of all boats, DCNS estimates that the first of class would take longer to build, test and hand over to Navy than a build program exclusively in France. The admission that the first boat would take longer in Australia is an obvious one but key in managing expectations about the program.

“The differences are that the overall schedule for building solely in Australia is a little longer and will cost a little more,” Costello said. “We’d be delighted to build either way frankly.”

In essence, both roads (hybrid and local build) lead to the same job outcome for Australia.

ADM Comment: What was interesting about the media brief from DCNS was more what was not said. Given the politics in Canberra this week, an offering from the Japanese looks less likely given their champion is no longer in power. A three horse race has effectively become two.

Should Australia in the future choose to go nuclear with submarines, DCNS is the only contender that builds nuclear boats. The Shortfin Barracuda is a nuclear boat with a conventional heart in many ways.

As we have highlighted before, Defence will run the CEP to the best of their ability; working the solutions, their respective business cases and considering the strategic implications of all the options. What happens to this information once it crosses the lake between Russell and Parliament House is anyone’s guess. 

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