Australia’s Future Submarine Office was officially opened by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Cherbourg, France in presence of Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Force.
The office will be known as Hughes House after late Rear Admiral Owen “Oscar” Hughes for his invaluable role in Australia’s submarine history as the Director of the Collins Submarine Project. The office will house designers, naval architects and engineers who will work alongside each other on the Future Submarine Program.
“This is the largest and most ambitious military project in Australia’s history and it is a matter of great moment, historical moment that 100 years on from those shared sacrifices from that alliance, from that courage, from that dedication, from those days when men from Australia came to the other end of the world to fight for freedom – their, we are their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, are working together to secure our freedom not just for today but for many, many years to come,” said PM Turnbull during the ceremony.
Naval Group (formerly DCNS) and Lockheed Martin Australia, the platform and combat system integrators for the Future Submarine Project respectively, welcomed the official opening.
In December last year, Australia and France formally sealed a $50 billion agreement under which French naval contractor Naval Group will build a new fleet of diesel-electric submarines based on its nuclear Barracuda-class. The variant was named Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A.
The project has not been without controversy. In early 2016, more than 22,000 pages of documents relating to submarines DCNS is building for India (Scorpene/Kalvari-class) were published in The Australian newspaper, leading to concerns about the company’s ability to protect sensitive data.
According to the Royal Australian Navy the Shortfin Barracuda will displace 4,500 tons (surfaced), measure 97 metres in length, have an 8.8-metre beam, utilise pump-jet propulsion, have a range of 18,000 nautical miles, a top speed of greater than 20 knots, an endurance of 80 days and a crew of 60.
The construction of the 12 submarines will be done at ASC shipyard in Osborne, Adelaide, South Australia. The massive assembly hall to be constructed allows for one submarine on the finishing line and another on the assembly line. The workforce of 2800 people will be needed for the construction.
The construction is expected to begin in 2021-22 and will extend into the late 2040s. The first submarine is likely to enter service in the early 2030s.