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Submarines: France loses a 56 billion euro contract with Australia, Brittany impacted – Australian submarines: France loses the contract of the century

Last night, the United States, which seeks to strengthen its alliances in all directions against China, announced a vast security partnership in the Indo-Pacific zone with Australia and the United Kingdom, including the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines in Canberra. Immediate consequence of this spectacular announcement: Australia broke a huge contract with France for the delivery of conventional submarines.

In 2016, Naval Group was selected by Canberra to supply 12 conventionally powered (non-nuclear) submarines derived from the future French Barracuda nuclear submarines.

The Lorient and Brest sites were to be concerned

As Le Télégramme announced in February 2019, 350 Naval Group employees were to be directly assigned to the cooperation and technology transfer contract, according to the management of the Naval Group industry group. It is above all the sites of Cherbourg and Angoulême-Ruelle (construction of submarines) as well as Toulon-Olioule (information and surveillance systems) which were to be concerned initially. But Lorient (construction of surface ships and on-board systems) and Brest (operational maintenance and maintenance) were also to intervene, later, via the contribution of their engineers for this long-term program.

“Not a change of mind”, “a change of need”

Worth 50 billion Australian dollars (31 billion euros) on signature, the value of this contract is currently estimated at 90 billion Australian dollars due to cost overruns and currency effects. . “The decision we made not to continue with the Attack-class submarines and to take another path is not a change of mind, it’s a change of need”, explained, this Thursday, the Australian Prime Minister.

The latter indicated, regarding this new alliance, that “the first major initiative of (this new pact called) ‘AUKUS’ will be to deliver a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia”, said the Australian Prime Minister , Scott Morrison, appearing by videoconference, as well as his British counterpart Boris Johnson, during an event chaired by Joe Biden at the White House.

The French government reassembled

France, which therefore saw a contract worth 90 billion Australian dollars (56 billion euros) escape its naval industry, immediately castigated a “regrettable decision” and “contrary to the letter and the spirit of cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia,” according to a joint statement from the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

And it is not certain that Paris will console itself with the conciliatory words of Joe Biden, who assured Wednesday that the United States wanted to “work closely with France” in this very strategic area. Paris “is a key partner” of the United States, he said.
“The United Kingdom, Australia and the United States are going to be linked even more closely, which reflects the degree of trust between us and the depth of our friendship,” said Boris Johnson, who has achieved a certain diplomatic success there. in its strategy to avoid international isolation after Brexit.

“It will bind Australia, the United States and Britain for generations”

“Based on our shared history as maritime democracies, we are committed to a common ambition to support Australia in the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines,” the three partners said in a joint statement, which specifies that it is indeed about propulsion, and not about armament. “The only country with which the United States has ever shared this type of nuclear propulsion technology is Great Britain” from 1958, a senior White House official had said earlier. “It is a fundamental, fundamental decision. It will bind Australia, the United States and Britain for generations. »

According to this senior official, the “AUKUS” pact also provides for collaboration between the three countries in terms of cyber defense, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.

An alliance to face China

New Zealand, which has banned its waters to all nuclear-powered vessels since 1985, has announced that future submarines from its neighbor and ally Australia will not be welcome there. China was not mentioned in the joint statement by the Australian, American and British leaders, which refers to “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”. But there is no doubt that the new alliance is primarily aimed at confronting Beijing’s regional ambitions.
Since his election, Joe Biden has repeated that he intends to confront China, like his predecessor Donald Trump, but in a very different way, without locking himself into a face-to-face. On Wednesday, he said he wanted to “invest in our greatest source of strength, our alliances” and want to “update them to better face the threats of today and tomorrow”. The American president also brings together, on September 24 in Washington, the Australian, Indian and Japanese Prime Ministers to relaunch a diplomatic format, the “Quad”, which had been vegetating for several years.

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