Behind DCNS deal with Australia, French savoir-faire

Even if weapons systems will be US-made, days before France’s DCNS won the huge USD 50 billion contract to build the next 12 units of Australia’s new submarine, both Japan and its main ally the United States attempted to convince Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to accept Japan’s offer. Powerful sections of the US and Australian national security apparatus actively lobbied the PMO in favor of Japan. Among them, wrote The Australian’s Greg Sheridan, was former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who “certainly hoped that the Australian Navy chooses the Japanese submarine.”

From a geopolitical viewpoint, Washington constantly pleaded for closer relations between Australia and Japan and considered this historic contract as a major opportunity for this purpose. However, some Australian officials, despite the positive quality assessment made by US counterparts, questioned Japan’s unproven ability to transfer military technology to a foreign country while France had such a long successful record in that field. Also, France’s DCNS expertise in building submarines has been among the most advanced in the world for long.

“In these very advanced areas of military technology, the only ones who can still compete with the Americans are most often the French. That might seem surprising to the public opinion, but like the latest announcement by France’s Atos of the building of world’s most efficient supercomputer Sequana showed, the French are still very good at designing state-of-the-art technology,” stated Charles Rault, Executive Director of Cyceon. Finally, also taking into account the tensions that a multi-billion defense contract with Japan could create with China, the Australian government has opted for France’s offer, the most diplomatically relevant and the most qualitative choice.