Letter to the editor - The Australian, "That sinking feeling over $220bn subs debacle"
12 December 2019
Submarines are an essential part of Australia’s naval capability. Our submarines are a powerful instrument for deterring conflict and a potent weapon should conflict occur.
Our current Collins Class fleet is recognised as a world class submarine capability.
In the decades ahead, maintaining a regionally superior submarine – one that can operate with our US allies and regional partners – will be as important as ever to Australia’s national security.
Through a rigorous process, we have selected Naval Group of France as our partner for the design and delivery of the Attack Class submarines. This program will deliver 12 regionally superior submarines for Australia and the Royal Australian Navy. This fleet will be built, operated and sustained by Australians.
I am disappointed with ill-informed and inaccurate commentary that continues to misrepresent the development and execution of the entire program.
The selection of Naval Group was overseen by an Expert Advisory Panel comprising commercial, procurement and probity experts led by former US Secretary of the Navy, Professor Don Winter. It found the process to be without fault. This process was also reviewed by the Australian National Audit Office, which found that it was a fit for purpose process to evaluate and select an international partner.
In parallel with this process, Lockheed Martin Australia was selected to design and develop the combat system that will be integrated into the future Attack Class submarines. This decision has been strongly supported by the US Government and the US Navy. Australia has always had, and continues to enjoy, unfettered support from the United States on our submarine programs.
We have entered into commercial arrangements to implement the commitments made by both Naval Group and Lockheed-Martin. I remain confident in the process that selected Naval Group to be Australia’s design partner for the Attack Class submarines and the steps we have taken since, including the process being applied to maximise Australian industry involvement.
Defence has been consistent in its advice that the estimated acquisition cost of the program is 50 billion in constant dollars. It is entirely misleading to claim that the costs of the Attack Class submarine program have “blown out” when quoting out-turned figures.
This program is Australia’s largest ever defence acquisition. I am confident the work we are doing will deliver the best possible submarine capability for Australia and the men and women who serve in the Royal Australian Navy’s submarines.
Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, RAN
Chief of Navy Australia