PARIS – France’s Naval Group and Australia on Feb. 11 signed a $35 billion contract to build 12 Attack-class submarines for the Australian navy. Negotiations over the ownership of technology and details of the industrial partnership had been underway since Australia selected the French group in April 2016 as its preferred bidder over Japanese and German offers for the country’s biggest-ever defense contract.

This Strategic Partnering Agreement governing the transfer of Naval Group’s “know-how” and “know-why” to Australia was signed in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. It sets out the principles of cooperation between the two partners not only for the next 50 years but for any future contracts in the framework of the program.

According to these principles, Naval Group will deliver 12 Attack-class submarines – with construction on the first scheduled to start in late 2023 and to be fully mission-ready for the navy in late 2034. The pact also positions Naval Group to deliver new technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities to Australia.

Australia initially selected Naval Group in April 2016. Work on the submarines thus far has taken place under the so-called design and mobilization contract signed in September 2016. Since then pre-sizing of the future submarine has been completed as has the feasibility study to ensure the submarine meets functionality, scheduling and cost requirements. This phase was undertaken in Cherbourg, France, with the support of Australian engineers who were relocated there to learn how to carry out the detailed design of the future submarine. The next group of engineers will arrive in France next month.

In addition, the first sod was turned last year at the construction yard in Adelaide. Phase 1 of the construction, which will create at least 600 jobs, will focus on site establishment, earth works and piling for the new facilities. Procurement has begun of capital equipment, including machining equipment, painting booths, a rotating cradle and machines for plate rolling, plasma cutting, water jet cutting and milling.

Suppliers of the top five submarine components – the main motor, diesel generators, switchboards, batteries, and weapons discharge systems – have been reviewed and will be announced before the end of this year.

Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.

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