Australia signed an empty pledge by agreeing to a deal on US nuclear submarines for which there is no clear delivery date or technology transfer agreement, the contractor’s angry boss warned French Defense Naval Group.
Pierre Eric Pommellet also said his company will seek compensation for Australia’s cancellation of a € 56 billion (£ 48 billion) contract for 12 new Attack-class submarines, which it he described it as a purely political decision taken without warning.
His comments to Le Figaro were the latest allegations that Australia’s decision to replace the French contract with the Aukus deal with the UK and the US was political rather than defensive. Australia has hinted that the contract cancellation follows a new assessment of China’s security threat.
Pommellet said the only tangible point of the proposed new contract “is the decision to acquire nuclear powered boats. When, how, with which partners, which technological transfer? Nobody knows. Australia, on the other hand, knows what it is losing and what we are committed to building. “
He added: “At Naval Group… we had no warning or any indication that we were becoming a Plan B in favor of a Plan A with the US and UK.
“Discussions between these two countries and Australia have undoubtedly been conducted in a very small circle at the highest political level for several months.
“This decision was announced to us without warning, with incredible brutality. “
The submarine contract, Australia’s largest defense acquisition, had been plagued by delays, cost explosions and disputes over local industry involvement.
But the French Defense Ministry said this week that Australian military officials sent them a letter saying they were “extremely happy” with the French submarines just hours before announcing the project’s cancellation.
The Australian government downplayed the letter’s importance to Naval Group, but Pommellet dismissed claims that Canberra made clear the contract was risky.
“All the lights were green. In the morning of September 15, we received a letter officially informing us that the Australian government had accepted our offer as well as the technical choices which would have made it possible to initiate a new phase of the program, called “basic design” of the submarines. Everything was OK to complete the negotiations and sign this new contract quickly.
He said the claim will be handed over to the Australian government in a few weeks, adding “as an industrialist, we will assert all our rights.”
In the interview, he continually sought to defend his company’s reputation, saying the cost increases were due to the Australian government reassessing its security needs, including increasing its needs from eight cents to 12 cents. -marines.
Its technical requirements have also evolved, particularly in terms of cybersecurity, a theme less present in 2016, when the contract was signed for the first time.
He insisted that Naval Group was the only company in the world with the know-how to produce both conventional and nuclear submarines, implying that his company should have been allowed to bid if Australia had decided to rewrite the specifications of the contract.