Nigel Pittaway/Defense News
4 December 2015
MELBOURNE, Australia — Now that all three competitors have issued final proposals in Australia's AU$ 50 billion (US $36.44 billion) Future Submarine program, an expert advisory panel will begin its evaluations and issue findings next year to guide the government's selection.
Up to 12 large conventional submarines will be acquired under Project Sea 1000. The Australian government selected France’s DCNS, TKMS of Germany and the government of Japan to participate in a competitive evaluation process (CEP).
“Since the CEP began in February, all three participants have worked closely with [the Department of] Defence and they should be congratulated for the hard work and significant investment they have made to reach this point,” Australian Defence Minister Sen. Marise Payne said in a statement.
“Submarines are Defence’s most complex, sensitive and expensive capability, so it is important that evaluation process is fair and robust.”
Each of the three bidders is required to submit three strategies for construction of the Future Submarine, from full completion in their home shipyards; through a hybrid model where initial boats are built in the home yard and the remainder in Australia; and a complete build in an Australian shipyard.
DCNS is proposing a conventionally powered derivative of its Barracuda nuclear attack submarine, known as the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A. The company announced that its proposal, which includes a government-to-government agreement between the Australian Department of Defence and France’s Direction Générale de Armament, was submitted on Nov. 27.
TKMS is bidding a submarine which uses its existing HDW Type 216 boat as a reference design, but will be significantly scaled up to meet Australia’s requirements.
During the Pacific 2015 Maritime Exposition held in Sydney in October, TKMS Australia Chairman John White announced that the design would be named "Endeavour," after the barque of Capt. James Cook who landed on Australia’s east coast in 1770.
The Japanese government, in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding, is dealing directly with the Australian Defence Department’s procurement organization, the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group. The Japanese are proposing a new submarine design based upon the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force’s current Soryu-class boat.
The CEP, which is being followed for both Sea 1000 and Australia’s Future Frigate (Sea 5000) programs in lieu of the traditional tender process, has attracted a great deal of comment from defense analysts and industry in Australia, with some likening it to a "beauty pageant."
Graeme Dunk, the manager of a national defense industry organization, the Australian Business Defence Industry, writing in the Australian Strategic Policy Institutes "The Strategist" blog in August, warned that the information resulting from the CEP will be less reliable than that coming from a tender process.
“While Defence will no doubt do a good job of the evaluation process, the results will therefore be more amenable to interpretation,” he wrote.
“Simply put, the selection of the contestants and the lack of detail in the information provided means that it will be easier for the government to make a decision other than the one that might be recommended by Defence.”
However Payne defended the strategy in her keynote speech to the Submarine Institute of Australia’s Science, Technology and Engineering Conference in Adelaide on Nov. 17, saying the government was determined to get the best capability and value for money through the CEP process.
“The aim of the CEP is to inform government’s decision on the international partner to work with Australia to develop and deliver the Future Submarine. Through this process, we will assess the ability of the participants to work closely with us, including how each would approach our capability and sustainment needs, and how cost and schedule would be managed throughout the program,” she said.
“For a program of this nature, we need to work closely with the selected international partner to fully develop the Future Submarine. This is going to be very resource-intensive for both Defence and the selected partner.
“Once the partner is selected, there will be about three years of further development work before we finalize the Future Submarine’s capability and cost.”
Australia’s chief defense scientist, Alex Zelinsky, also recently announced that Australia and Japan had signed a cooperative research agreement on marine hydrodynamics.
The agreement is the first joint research project to be undertaken in the defense sector by the two countries and will be conducted by Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency.
“Understanding hydrodynamics is vital for the future of Australia’s maritime defense and this collaboration will greatly benefit our technology development in this area,” Zelinsky said.
“While the research is not connected to the competitive evaluation process currently underway to assess Australia’s future submarine needs, the results from the research will have a broad applicability to Australia’s future maritime projects.”