AU subs Collins class

France Recalls US and Australian Ambassadors over DCNS Sub Cancellation

By David Dunlop, 20 September 2021

The French government has immediately recalled their Ambassadors to the US and Australia amid the Australian government's decision to cancel the DCNS Barracuda Block 1A 12 boat submarine deal reached in 2016. Recalling an Ambassador from any country, especially with allied partners, is not taken lightly and is a big deal for any country to do. The French government has said that it felt "betrayed" when the Australian government pulled out of the existing $90B AUD ($65B USD) multi-billion dollar defence deal. The new trilateral partnership with Australia, United States, United Kingdom (AUKUS) was not made lightly.  Australia indicated that the decision to cancel the French DCNS deal and go with an all nuclear SSN submarine was made based on the best interests Australia's national security. The fallout from this decision will be felt for months or even years to come. 

In my opinion, this decision by Australia had been simmering in the background for if not months, then ever since the contract was signed in 2016 between the Australian government and DCNS France for 12 French Barracuda Block 1A diesel submarines. Little by little DCNS seemed to be pulling back on the agreement WRT technology transfers, enormous cost increases ($90B AUD) and other demands by DCNS and the French government. The Australian government just had enough and made the decision to cancel the project altogether. To be fair though, Australia obviously had been in secret negotiations with both the United States and United Kingdom for this nuclear technology transfer many months ago and the pact was then finally solidified and published. 8 nuclear attack submarines are to be built for Australia in Australia. Whether they will be Astute-class or Virginia-class boats is not yet clear. The French are naturally very upset by this seemingly surprising decision and it caught other non-allied states off-guard. Will this give Canada new momentum to make a deal with the US to also transfer its nuclear technology to Canada? Remember 1987, when Canada tried to buy Trafalgar class SSNs from the UK? If the US and UK were willing to share their nuclear technology with Australia to create a triad pact of three nuclear powers, then perhaps it is time for Canada to re-visit the nuclear submarine option as well and barter a deal for this technology for a 4-eyes pact (AUKCANUS). If this could be done, perhaps a better deal could be reached between the United States and/or the United Kingdom for an 8-10 Virginia/Astute class Canadian submarine fleet. These subs would be SSN only attack boats with no nuclear weapons capabilities and would be a game-changer and give Canada a great option for Arctic surveillance and ISR capabilities well into the 21st century. Something to consider for the RCN Submarine Project just announced?


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