The claims, reported by local news media in the wake of an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report about the program earlier this week, suggested negotiations with Naval Group were at such a poor state the Commonwealth-appointed Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board had earlier recommended drawing up contingency plans.
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However, in a statement released Wednesday by Secretary of Defence Greg Moriarty, Chief of Defence Force Gen. Angus Campbell, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan and Deputy Secretary Naval Shipbuilding, Tony Dalton, denied the claims.
“Contrary to media interpretations of ANAO’s latest report on the Future Submarine Program, Defence was not advised to ‘walk away’ from Naval Group by the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board,” the statement read.
Concerns were so great that the board asked Defence to consider “whether program risks outweighed the benefits of proceeding” and questioned whether it was still in the national interest to go ahead with the project.
The Strategic Partnering Agreement was eventually signed, with much fanfare, in early 2019 and notably, it gives future governments the ability to walk away from the project if it’s delayed or fails to deliver what it promised.
Already, two key milestones have been missed and work on the design phase is nine months behind schedule.
“Acknowledging the scale of this program, we remain confident that our work on the Attack-class program with Naval Group and Lockheed Martin Australia (as the Combat Systems Integrator) is progressing thoroughly and will result in the delivery of a regionally-superior submarine from the early 2030s, establishing a truly sovereign capability as we maximize the involvement of Australian industry.”
In 2016, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Naval Group (then known as DCNS) had beaten rival bids from Germany and Japan to build 12 new submarines for the Royal Australian Navy over the next three decades.
The Sea 1000 program timeline calls for delivery of the first Attack-class boat in 2032 with service entry around 2034.
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