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ASC and French shipbuilder agree to cooperate on submarines

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South Australian-based shipbuilder ASC and the French winners of the future submarines contract, Naval Group, today signed an agreement to work together on key aspects of Australia’s submarine programs.

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Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said today the agreement ensured ASC and Naval Group would “work together as partners” at Osborne to build Australia’s 12 new Attack class submarines, as well as on the sustainment of the Collins Class fleet.

Pyne, who last week was forced to defend ambiguity about the percentage of local content in the future submarines project, said the lack of decisions made by previous governments meant that the Naval Group and ASC might once have seen themselves as competitors who had to fight for “the last chip on the beach”.

However, the Coalition Government’s decisions on the future submarine project meant the two organisations saw themselves as collaborators.

“This framework agreement is a great early step to ensure ASC has a role in delivering the Attack class submarines as well as sustaining our existing Collins class fleet,” Pyne said today.

In a statement, the Naval Group said the agreement signed with ASC today detailed the terms and conditions under which the two companies would collaborate “through separate commercial arrangements for the provision of supplies and services to each other”.

The areas of cooperation include workforce developments, OH&S training and services, and supply chain services.

“Naval Group and ASC are natural partners,” said Naval Group Australia CEO John Davis. “We share common values and are ideally placed to maximise the synergies between the ongoing Collins Class sustainment program and the design and build of the Attack Class (future) submarines.”

“This innovative collaboration with ASC is a key enabling component of Naval Group’s commitment to design and build 12 Attack class submarines. It will support the development of a sovereign submarine capability, providing economic benefits and supporting industrial development to deliver a multi-generational submarine enterprise to Australia.”

South Australia’s share of the spoils from the national defence shipbuilding program came under scrutiny in Senate estimates last week.

ASC told federal parliament it was instructed to explore options for shifting existing Collins Class maintenance jobs to Western Australia, and the Defence official in charge of the future subs project, Stephen Johnson, insisted there was “no set percentage” for Australian content. A Naval Group executive was also quoted in a French magazine, saying the company did not have “precise figures on industrial or economic return to Australian companies, nor a limit on which supplier we choose”.

Pyne insists that the level of “Australian content” in the $50 billion submarines project will exceed 60 per cent.

– with AAP

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