Posted 23 сентября 2021, 08:46
Published 23 сентября 2021, 08:46
Modified 24 декабря 2022, 22:36
Updated 24 декабря 2022, 22:36
Someone was impressed by the amount of the broken contract, and this is a colossal 56 billion euros, someone focuses on the geopolitical and military-political consequences of the break. And the case, what to hide, is unprecedented - not only is the contract huge, it was also concluded, and then terminated, between the closest allies in favor of other closest allies.
France's reaction to such a "scam" is quite predictable and even a little too harsh: Paris not only recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, which in diplomatic language precedes very tough steps, such as breaking off diplomatic relations and the subsequent declaration of war, but also questioned the conclusion trade agreement between the EU and Australia. And this is almost more serious than the recall of the ambassadors - it is clear that diplomatic attacks will soon end and the countries will at the very least agree, but the trade agreement, which has been negotiated over the years, is a serious matter, and its failure for more than one year could paralyze trade between the EU and Australia.
In order to better understand the reason for such a tough reaction from Paris, first a little background. In 2016, France, through its largest shipbuilding company DCNS (now known as the Naval Group), won a tender announced by Australia to build twelve non-nuclear submarines for the Australian Navy. The cost of the issue was already impressive at that time: more than 50 billion Australian dollars, or about 30 billion euros. The French competitors in the tender were the Germans, namely ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), and the Japanese, represented by a consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation. The Germans and Japanese proposed their modern designs of non-nuclear submarines, while the French proposed the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A project, which is an adaptation of a nuclear submarine being developed for France.
After the formal victory in the competition, it took the parties another three years to sign an agreement to start building 12 boats, called "Attack" in Australia. A little earlier, in 2018, the construction of a special shipyard began in the Australian city of Adelaide, where the final assembly of submarines from units and blocks supplied by France was to be carried out. The start of the actual work on the assembly of the submarine was planned for 2023, and the construction of the first boat for this project was to be completed in 2031. The whole project, as expected, will stretch for at least a couple of decades and the last of the twelve boats will enter service only in the forties of the current century. Which, in general, is quite expected, given the scale of the project.
As it is known now, during the time of agreeing on the details, the price of the contract has grown "slightly" - from about 30 to 56 billion euros. In general, the French are masters of such things - the Indians, who ordered the Rafale fighters from them, will not let them lie. But let's leave that to the two high contracting parties - if Canberra nevertheless signed the final protocol, then it must be assumed that the price seemed fair to her. But the reservations regarding the performance characteristics of the boats began literally immediately, here the Australians are not lying. Actually, one of the key requirements specified in the tender, namely the ability to conduct hostilities at a fairly large distance from their own shores, in particular, in the "Chinese seas and the North Pacific", was not achieved. Yes, the Australian side signed the contract, even though not everything was the way it originally wanted, but here, perhaps, the key role was played by the fact that the projects of competitors, namely the diesel-electric submarines of the German project 214 and the Japanese Soryu, also could not provide the desired range. In addition, from the very beginning there were talks about the possible subsequent modernization of the French boat, and it is possible that it was precisely about increasing the range.
It should be noted that the basic project, namely the Barracuda nuclear submarine, which is currently being built for the French fleet, is quite modern. But the Attack project, adapted to the Australian requirements, did not shine with special modernity - the installation of an air-independent power plant was not planned. In return, the French proposed a phased build-up of the combat capabilities of these submarines, gradually introducing modifications to Block 1B, Block 1C, and so on. The basic variant, we recall, was designated by the manufacturer as Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A. Perhaps in Paris it seemed like a good idea, but in Canberra, as we have now seen, this approach raised many questions...
That is, in fact, if it is quite frankly, it cannot be said that the French were left with a nose completely out of nowhere. The contract, especially considering its cost, is still a bit "smelly". No, of course, the contract is "sacred", and it cannot be violated, and we strongly condemn the insidious Anglo-Saxons, but ... But if you think about it, the Australians can only be blamed for the fact that they did not send Paris earlier, or did not bring down the cost of the contract once in two.
But one cannot but agree with the assertion that replacing non-nuclear submarines with several nuclear ones, to put it mildly, is redundant for Australia. To protect its own coast of Canberra, the boats that France was ready to supply would probably have been enough. Better yet (and certainly much cheaper) would be to come to an agreement with the same Japanese who proposed an option based on the latest diesel-electric submarine Soryu. And the replacement of the French "Barracudas" by it is not yet known what, but clearly with a nuclear power plant, says only one thing - the geopolitical goals of this agreement have changed, and possibly the very military doctrine of Australia in terms of the use of its navies.
Almost all experts quite naturally linked the erupted scandal with the need to counter China in the Asia-Pacific region. And this is all the more obvious that the breakdown of the French-Australian agreement coincided with the creation of a new partner organization in the field of defense and security AUKUS. Australia, Great Britain and the United States entered the organization, and its first step was precisely Canberra's refusal of French submarines and their probable replacement with American or British-built nuclear submarines.
It is clear that the new organization did not emerge from scratch: the United States is struggling to consolidate its allies before a possible collision with China, which is gaining more and more power. The creation of AUKUS means, in fact, the encirclement of China, if we bear in mind its main logistic routes and possible directions of military expansion. Australia in this case is the optimal "reference point" for the fleets of the allies, operating against the PRC from the south. It is not close enough to the PRC to be the victim of a surprise attack using conventional forces and means of destruction, and at the same time close enough to support forward units in the Philippines, Indonesia and possibly Vietnam from there. In addition, some of the region's key shipping arteries, such as the Strait of Malacca, can be controlled directly from Australia. In this sense, the importance of Australia can hardly be overestimated, and due to its greater security, it is in some ways even more important than Japan.
It is clear that "not China alone" - the eastern coast of Russia can also, albeit with some difficulty, be controlled from Australia. Of course, diesel-electric submarines are not very suitable for this - the distances in this region are simply enormous. But atomic - quite. And if Canberra has at least several nuclear submarines, this will become a serious trump card in possible actions against Moscow.
And this is not at all hyperbole and not an abstract assumption - the aggravation of relations between the United States and the Russian Federation is quite possible both in itself and as a result of the strengthening of allied relations between Russia and China. In the future, a situation may well develop when China will come under sanctions, and Russia will be the only way for it to communicate with the outside world. In this case, especially if the conflict between the PRC and the United States at least locally has the character of a direct armed confrontation, one can expect attempts by the United States and its allies to block Russian maritime trade as well. Of course, under the pretext of opposing China...
Therefore, at the moment it is not so important how shocked the French are and which submarines, American or British, the Australians will ultimately order. It is the geopolitical aspect that is fundamentally important, as well as the fact that the United States and its allies in the region have clearly outlined their aspirations. Moreover, the probable appearance of nuclear submarines in the Australian Navy is even more alarming for Moscow than for Beijing. because Diesel submarines could at the very least control the Strait of Malacca from Australian ports. But for actions in the region of Vladivostok, the Kurils or Kamchatka, they will definitely not fit. And the fact that, for the sake of replacing diesel-electric submarines with nuclear submarines, they even went for a serious deterioration in relations with one of the key allies, rather eloquently speaks of the seriousness of the intentions of our overseas partners and their allies.