“It is a long process,” said Commodore Michael Houghton, Director General Future Submarines at the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), speaking at an industry briefing in Melbourne yesterday.
“When it comes to the actual procurement of equipment there is quite a ways to go; however, during the design process we do need to understand what suppliers are able to provide what equipment, so that we can ensure that equipment is factored into the design.
“So while many of you may think that this is a very early stage in the process I would like to set the expectation that we do want you to be involved in the process…but we are looking at a longer-term program here, and the actual orders for equipment may come a little later.”
The joint briefing also involved the Future Submarine platform system integrator DCNS and combat system integrator Lockheed Martin Australia.
DCNS stated that in Victoria there have so far been 189 requests for information issued to more than 45 companies; 39 companies have completed the DCNS supplier pre-qualification questionnaire; and 10 companies have already undergone validation audits, which is the next step in the process of becoming eligible to be part of the DCNS supply chain.
Addressing the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in Canberra on March 14, Brent Clark, DCNS Australia interim chief executive officer, had expressed disappointment about a lack of engagement from Australian companies.
“Part of that we believe to be the length of the program before we start needing some of the companies involved,” Clark told the committee.
CDRE Houghton said at the industry briefing that the objective is to maximise Australian industry involvement.
“There has been some discussion about the cost premium to building the submarines in Australia,” CDRE Houghton said. “That sort of cost premium is really generated through the start-and-stop nature of previous programs.
“What we are looking at doing here is establishing the capability where we maintain a capability to build submarines over the life of the 12 submarines, and drive the efficiencies such that we become world’s best practice and maintain those world benchmarks for the efficiency in building submarines.”
The initial design of the Future Submarine will be undertaken in France, with a team of up to 50 people to be based in Cherbourg to support this activity, CDRE Houghton said.
Meanwhile, Sean Costello has resigned as chief executive of DCNS Australia.
“DCNS thanks the former chief executive for his efforts and sends best wishes to his family and to him for whatever role he chooses to undertake next,” a spokesperson for DCNS Australia said in a statement provided to Australian Defence Business Review on March 22.
The next industry briefing on the Future Submarine program is scheduled for May 11 in Brisbane.