France could not provide Australia with a suitable submarine.

Written by Anonymous

The French ambassador was trying to muster enough outrage that it would hide the embarrassing reality that France could not provide Australia with what it needed, and that the initial efforts of the French to design and build what Australia requested were too slow, too expensive and were still missing the mark.

Australia needs new submarines. Their current fleet of Collins Class subs are too small, not well enough armed, have too short a cruising endurance, can’t stay under water long enough and are fraught with mechanical problems. And that is just for starters!

These subs might have to go up against the Chinese Navy, and they would not do well.

So, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) decided they needed new subs and, not wanting to go nuclear, looked around for a new sub that could be bigger, more modern, more heavily armed and have 2–3 times the endurance of the Collins class. France’s Naval Group said that they didn’t quite have what the RAN wanted, but they were pretty sure they could make them. So OZ signed a contract with Naval Group to build a bigger version of something like this:

The thing is, almost immediately there were problems. It looked like it was going to be harder, take longer and cost a lot more to build what the RAN needed, and there were a lot of questions whether this highly modified design (which would be practically a new submarine) would even work as promised.

I should add that there have been problems in the recent past with RAN sub purchases and refits, and there was a growing sense of “here we go again” as the Naval Group project seemed like it was getting more expensive, more complicated and more uncertain. The unfortunate truth is that the RAN was probably asking for too much from the French designs, trying desperately to hang on to their non-nuclear commitment.

Think of all this against the backdrop of China, which is in the middle of the largest and fastest military buildup in history, fielding a massive, new fleet that poses a growing threat to Australia every day.

Along with this fleet, Chairman Xi is sounding more and more belligerent and making open threats against Australia for opposing China and being friendly to Taiwan. China’s rough talk genuinely seems to be moving beyond bellicose rhetoric and they seem like they might actually be thinking about invading Taiwan or something similar. This is all starting to feel ominous and real.

As a result, Australia realizes it is insane to pay so much for a fleet of submarines that may or may not work, and that won’t be delivered for at least 10–20 years, or more! They stepped back, thought about who they were really going to have to fight with and rely on (the US) and wisely decided that it would be smarter to spend that money buying subs that were better, that they knew would work, that were fully interoperable with their closest military allies (the US and UK) and that could be delivered just as fast or even faster.

If you were Australia, wouldn’t you have done the same thing? The RAN would have been fools to trust their next generation of subs to Naval Group. There were just too many uncertainties.

Now the French have lost a lot of money but, more importantly, have suffered the humiliation of a major world power telling them that their gear is really not up to snuff. That must hurt, and it is just the latest example of Europe’s industrial and military decline, relative to the rest of the world. Of course, France’s ambassador was making a gigantic show of outrage. How else can France save face?

by David Rishel on 2021-11-29 Retired Navy Officer, Operations Consultant, Logistician, Photographer and student of human behavior.


Kevin Randolf
The French would have had to deal with constantly changing specifications on blotting paper, whereas the USA and UK have simply promised the world and my experience in this front Guarantees an explosive bottom line.

As for China, you need to reference the endless Australian comedy skits that take the piss out of this kind of sensationist propaganda!

Murdock media have worked hard with the US propaganda machine and Sky is not far away from Fox when it comes to factual reporting.

In the UK we’re used to right wing tabloids and watching in disbelief at the utter lies that come out of US … media, but it’s disappointing to see the extent to which Australia has become the USA’s puppet regards Chinese propaganda.

Nice professional answer, but just wrong in so many levels.

As an Australian myself, it’s clear to me that the ScoMo administration was just plain gutless and deceitful when dealing with France.

You forgot to mention that the French company builds nuclear submarines. The Australian government asked them to design non-nuclear submarine for them. That’s why there were so many delays. But now, the ScoMo team claimed that conventional submarines are not good enough. They wanted nuclear ones but torn the contract and chose the American and British ones. I always think that Scott Morrison and most of his team members always regard themselves loyal British (then American) subjects. Australian interests and values are not their priorities.

Nigel Arnot
I think it’s fair to say that the UK has the subs that the Australians want, in service, right now. So its down to the Australians, how much customisation they want, and perhaps the UK, whether we have any technological “crown jewels” we aren’t willing to sell even to Australia.

The point missing is that the requirement for an effective submarine for Australia in strategic terms has been to go-nuke for half a century. Hower up to the last five years or so it was for Ausi the political sense ‘NO-NUKE’ at any cost No power stations and certainly no nuclear Naval Units. But times change and so do the the political imperatives so nuclear submarines have become more acceptable to the Aussie public. I think though that the real turning point was the fact that the UK was prepared to join the AUKUS Alliance which has been in the making I’d opine since the UK no longer had to take the political requirements of the European Union into consideration. I think that some kind of deal has already been make whereby Aus will get it’s nuclear submarines at a fixed price because the Aussie purchase unlike the French one is not required to subsidise development of the UK Program because that has already been pretty much completed with the RN contract of BUILD 7 nearly ready for launch.

Then there is the matter of cost. ASTUTE BUILD 7 comes in at just shy of $US 1,8 billion less than 2/3 that of the USN Virginia Class and both Building berths and the labour Force are in place. There is much talk of Aus building it’s own nukes but I cannot see that happening Building a nuclear submarine is a far more complex exercise than building surface naval Units and a perusal of BRAZILS experience of going it alone, even with very considerable technology transfer might give one an idea of just HOW complex it is and BRAZIL has a far greater Industrial shipbuilding base than Australia though I do see a considerable opportunity for sub-assembly and final fitting out.

Now that the resistance to all things nuke in Aus is on the wain I believe that the type of [SMR] Small Modular Reactors that a ROLLS ROYCE led UK Consortium [ the largest engineering Consortium in the history of the UK by the way] that is now coming on stream will also become acceptable to the Aussie public as the science which ids the best part of 70 years old is explained to them as the technology [which by the way is the best part of 70 years old] is explained to them.

The subject is too complex to explain here but research the THORIUM FUEL CYCLE, LFTR [Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors – colloquially LIFTERS] the work of ALVIN WEINBERG at OAK RIDGE USA. From what is in the Public Domain the R-R SMR would appear to be, to me, either a LIFTER or something very much like it.. If so it is the nearest we are ever going to get to a truly Green Nuclear Energy and what FUSION energy would like to become. And by the way Australia has probably the worlds largest reserves of easily extracted fissile materials for LIFTERS.

Nicholi Valentin
Sorry but after the French tried to murder ten people on board the Rainbow Warrior with two mines in an act of state sponsored terrorism they don’t get the luxury of lecturing people about ethics. New Zealand is our friend and ally. Really not interested.

Eric Blanton
The Collin class purchase has nothing to do with these new sub purchases.

The French would have had to figure it out, yes. While the US had it already figured out.

Comedy skits are irrelevant. Civilian comedy does is not indicative of government policy. Yet, the Chinese government has made threats to Australia. The situations two are not equal.

What does Fox news say that has your panties in a bunch? That China is violating the rights of the Uyghurs? That China violated the autonomy of Hong Kong? That China sank Filipino fishing vessels to intimidate them into giving up their waters? That China is threatening to invade Taiwan? That China threatened Australia?

I find it funny that you believe the situation is just the US and Australia that don’t like China, and that we are making up lies about them. The entire region despises China. All of their neighbors, to include Australia, doesn’t like China.

The only propaganda I see is from people who seem to approve of China, yet despise Western civilization.

What you probably think of racism is more likely a difference in ideology. No one hates the Han Chinese. They hate the CCP.

I find it laughable that you would claim this answer is “wrong on so many levels,” yet you provide no real counter argument, nor refute a single point that was made.

As an American, it is clear to me that the French just couldn’t deliver what was needed, and the French were gutless for crying foul when the future of Australia is being threatened. France isn’t going to save Australia will they? But you know who will? The US.

Just more anti-American blabbering.

Nick Pehar
You may well be right but you answered a different question from the one asked which was “how true is the French ambassador’s accusation of deceit on the Australian nuclear submarine deal?” The answer to that question is that, at least on the balance of probabilities, Scott Morrison had deceived Emmanuel Macron on his last visit to Paris. Consequently, the French had reason to be angry.

David Rishel
Nick, you may be correct, but it was a minor deceit. Nations pursuing critical matters of national defense are always going to obfuscate. France knows that more than most. In the scheme of things, the ambassador was making noise, not protesting about something real.

Peter Mullins
Have you looked at ALL of the available information. Why did Macron not take calls from Prime Minister Morrison nor other Australian ministers before the news of the reasonable decision to cease the giving of money to the French for something that was on the cusp of being superseded technologically and entirely out of date by the delivery of the first submarine in 10 plus years? Perchance he knew what was coming and decided that French feelings were more important than do the job that had been originally signed off on by Australian politicians (Pyne) and other duds who knew that they were leaving politics? I do suggest you do a lot more research in to this so called insult to France and the ridiculous over acting by the French in order to assuage their tender feelings and blame everyone but themselves for THEIR failures, incompetence and general discourtesy toward what they said before and what they did after the contract was signed.

Michael Clarke
A contract was cancelled due to non performance not deceit necessary or involved.

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