11 Jun 2021

Australia to refit older submarines after new fleet concerns - reports

3:30 pm on 11 June 2021

Australia will refurbish its ageing Collins-class submarine fleet, The Australian newspaper reported on Friday, as doubts over Canberra's $AU50 billion ($NZ53.8b) deal for 12 new submarines built by French shipbuilder Naval Group grow.

This handout picture taken on July 18, 2020 and released on October 20, 2020 by French shipbuilder Naval Group shows new French navy nuclear attack submarine Suffren, a Barracuda class, arriving at Toulon's naval base. (Photo by -

A new French navy nuclear attack submarine Suffren, a Barracuda class, arrives at Toulon's naval base in July 2020. Photo: AFP / Naval Group

Australia in 2016 selected Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines and significantly expand its military to protect strategic and trade interests in the Asia-Pacific.

The deal, one of the world's most lucrative defence deals, has been beset by problems and delays due to Canberra's requirement that the majority of the manufacturing and components be sourced locally.

As a result, Australian defence officials last month said they were undertaking "contingency planning".

Casting further doubt over the deal with Naval Group, The Australian reported Minister for Defence Peter Dutton would order a refit of existing Collins-class submarines.

"Clearly there have been problems with the arrangements with Naval Group," Dutton told The Australian.

"There has been concern on both sides in relation to the programme and I need to make sure that we have the best capacity available to us."

Australia first discussed replacing its trouble-plagued Collins class submarines nearly a decade ago. The Collins submarines are due to be retired in the next few years.

In this photo taken on October 12, 2016, a Royal Australian Navy diesel and electric-powered Collins Class submarine sits in Sydney Harbour.

One of the Collins submarines in Sydney harbour. (file pic) Photo: AFP

The first of Australia's six Collins-class submarines reaches the end of its lifespan in 2026. This is several years before the first of the new fleet, a diesel-electric version of Naval Group's 5000-tonne Barracuda nuclear-powered submarine, is scheduled to be delivered. The final new submarine will be operational during the 2050s.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron next week and the two are expected to discuss the submarine deal.

- Reuters

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