Paris – DCNS expects to sign the next Australian contract on the AU $50 billion (US $36 billion) Future Submarine Program in fall 2017, covering further design work on the planned attack boats, the French naval shipbuilder said Tuesday.  

"The next contract between DCNS and the Australian government should be signed next autumn," the company said in statement. "It will deal with complete studies and conceptual designs of the future submarines." Several more contracts are expected between the company and Canberra.

Building the first of the 12 diesel-electric boats is due to start around 2020, with the final timetable depending on building infrastructure and "preparation" of the Australian team, the company said. A first delivery is due in 2020.

A DCNS facility in Adelaide, South Australia, will become operational early next year, and will support French technology transfer, development of Australian suppliers and design of a new Adelaide shipyard, the company said. 

"This facility, and our local Adelaide workforce starting with 50 people in 2017, marks the beginning of our relationship as part of the community," Hervé Guillou, DCNS chairman and chief executive, said at a "founding" ceremony of the facility in Adelaide.

DCNS marked Tuesday a ceremony for its shipyard facility, as the Australian and French defense ministers signed an intergovernmental agreement for cooperation.

"This agreement constitutes a significant milestone in the deepening of our bilateral ties, particularly in operational cooperation between our two navies and in investment in innovation and technology," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement. The minister noted that he visited in Sydney the new French multimission ship, dubbed D’Entrecasteaux, and that its presence in the Australian harbor reflected operational cooperation.

That ship, based in Noumea, New Caledonia, is the first of four new French Navy ships deployed for patrol and surveillance missions over the 1.36 million km2 of exclusive economic zone in the Pacific.

"This agreement sets the framework for relations between the French and Australian governments necessary for the development of the future submarine fleet for the Australian Navy," the French defense ministry said in a statement.

DCNS signed Sept. 30 a framework contract for the Barracuda Shortfin 1A submarine, which included preliminary design, working with Lockheed Martin and building infrastructure in Australia. The US company will supply the combat system integrator.