By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, Sept 30 Australia has selected U.S.
defence company Lockheed Martin Corp as its preferred
bidder to supply the combat system for its new $38 billion fleet
of submarines, the country's defence industry minister said on
Lockheed Martin beat out competition from U.S. rival
Raytheon Co, which built the system for Australia's
existing Collins-class submarines.
Australia chose French naval contractor DCNS Group in April
to build 12 new submarines in a deal worth A$50 billion ($38
billion) - one of the world's most lucrative defence contacts.
France beat out offers from Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine
and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and
Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
Japan's bid had been seen as an early frontrunner, helped by
a view that the United States wanted to cement security ties
between regional allies Japan and Australia to counter China's
growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and beyond.
The decision to select Lockheed Martin will see Australia
share the same weapons system provider as the U.S. Navy,
offering greater interoperability between the two allies.
"By partnering with an Australian-based company with strong
links to the United States, we will ensure that we get the best
Australian and U.S. technology, while ensuring that our
sensitive technology is protected," Minister for Defence
Industry Christopher Pyne said in a statement.
The value of the contract was not disclosed.
Pyne also announced Australia had signed the first contract
with DCNS to commence the design work for the new submarines.
DCNS, which is 35 percent-owned by defence electronics giant
Thales SA, was criticised last month after more than
22,000 pages outlining details relating to submarines it is
building for India were published in an Australian newspaper.
The leak sparked concerns about DCNS's ability to protect
sensitive data and drawing a warning from Australian defence
The new fleet of submarines is a key element of Australia's
increased defence spending, which will rise to A$195 billion, or
2 percent of GDP, by 2021-2022.
In addition to the submarines, Australia is buying new
equipment including frigates, armoured personnel carriers,
strike fighter jets and drones.
But Canberra's defence plans have riled Beijing, with the
Foreign Ministry expressing "dissatisfaction" with Australia's
"negative" remarks on the South China Sea and its military
($1 = 1.3012 Australian dollars)
(Editing by Lincoln Feast)