Is Naval Group's Australian Contract Cancellation really a surprise?

In the outcry of stunned statements crying out in surprise and Anglo-Saxon treachery regarding the'' cancellation of the contract for the design and local construction of 12 submarines Conventionally powered Shortfin Barracuda in Australia, a dissonant statement has gone almost unnoticed, though it carries with it unmistakable legitimacy and sincerity. According to Vincent Hurel, secretary general of the CGT Naval Group in Cherbourg, disappointment is only "moderate", insofar as “the risk was known”. And indeed, for those who followed the progress of this program at the antipodes, the prospects of this contract had been severely degraded for a few months, and even several years.

After the euphoria of the first months following the signing of the agreement, the Naval Group teams experienced what those at Airbus Helicopters already knew and what the British are experimenting with about the Hunter class frigates, namely that Australian defense industrial policy is very complex, and represents a major political issue in the country. Quickly, indeed, the conservative opposition to the Labor government in place seized the subject to make it a critical axis against its opponents. And naturally, they did not run out of ammunition, because as usual, the authorities in Canberra have profoundly changed their expectations between the initial expression of the need which made it possible to make the initial costing, and the final iterative wishes expressed over the years. the water. In fact, the program, which was initially to enter an envelope of 40 to 50 billion Australian dollars, has seen its cost exposed to reach 90 billion dollars in just 3 years.

For the CGT representative of the Cherbourg naval site where French submarines are assembled, Canberra's decision to cancel the contract is only a moderate surprise.

The deadlines, meanwhile, went from a first submarine delivered in the second half of the decade, to a first delivery in 2033 at best, forcing the Royal Australian Navy to launch a program to extend the operational life of its Collins-class submarines. Obviously, all these slippages were widely commented on by the press and the Australian opposition, and the responsibility was mainly attributed to Naval Group, which saw its public image deteriorate rapidly in the country. The situation worsened when the British government ordered consultations to study alternative solutions, specifying to include the Swedish Kockums, designer of the Collins, who had been excluded from the SEA 1000 competition because he did not have submarines responding. to the requested criteria. In fact, the Swedish manufacturer, but also the German TKMS who had very badly accepted having given in to Naval Group in this competition, started an intense lobbying campaign in the Australian press in order to point out the deficiencies of the Franco-Australian program, and to put forward their own solutions.

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