Australia may have awarded France a bumper contract to build its next generation of submarines, but its highly secretive combat system will come from close ally the United States.
French shipbuilder DCNS last week beat off Germany and Japan to secure the Aus$50 billion (US$39 billion) deal to design and build the 12 subs, a scaled down conventionally-powered version of its 4,700-tonne Barracuda, to be named Shortfin Barracuda.
But it will have little to do with armaments and the complex combat system, which American defence giant Lockheed Martin — which is in the running to be involved — said was “essentially the eyes, ears and sword of the boat”.
Australia has made clear it prefers the American AN/BYG-1 system, along with the joint Australian-US heavyweight Mark-48 torpedoes as its main weapon.
A decision has yet to be made on which company will be responsible for integrating the system — essentially to detect, acquire and track targets — with US defence contractor Raytheon also said to be a contender.
Given the close relationship and the fact that its technology will be used, Washington was always going to take a keen interest in Canberra’s choice to build the boats.