France defence chief approves Adelaide shipyard expansion

Collins Class Submarine (Image: ASC)

Adelaide’s naval shipyard will undergo a major upgrade amid speculation that its maintenance and sustainment is on the move.

 Defence industry minister Christopher Pyne said an expansion to the southern end of ASC’s Osborne shipyard will begin as soon as July.

 The upgrade is part of preparations for the construction of offshore patrol vessels from next year and frigrates from 2020.

 Majority state-owned French firm Direction des Constructions Navels (DCNS) secured the future submarine project contract in April last year, The Advertiser reported.

 General Collet-Billon, the chief executive of France’s Delegation Generale pour l’Armament (DGA), joined Pyne at Osborne shipyard over the weekend.

 “The actual standard is at a high level,” he said with the aid of an interpreter. “We have obviously to modify the actual facilities in order to be able to run this high-level program, the future submarine program.

 “We have some plans and we have to take decisions very, very shortly to be able (to implement them).”

 According to the report, Pyne also moved to “defuse speculation about maintenance and sustainment shifting from Adelaide to Perth”, which is rumoured to be part of the $50 billion project to build 12 submarines from the mid-2020s.

 “In terms of full-cycle docking, maintenance and sustainment, Osborne and Henderson both undertake sustainment of the (existing Collins Class) submarines and full-cycle docking is done at Osborne,” Pyne reportedly said.

 “There are no plans to change that mix but obviously it’s a live plan. The submarines will begin in the early 2020s, the future frigates will have begun in 2020.

 “There are no plans to change the current mix of sustainment and maintenance between Osborne and Henderson.”

 France is also interested in developing a technological partnership with Australia, according to Collet-Billon, who revealed one had already started in acoustic research.

 “We want to propose and develop some other partnerships,” General Collet-Billon said.

 “We want to go about partnership with Australia — an operational one, a technical one, an industry one — which makes sense for Australia and France, given the presence of France in the region.”