It’s one of the most lucrative contracts in Australian government history, and the largest ever defence procurement project, with a price tag equivalent to building 25 new hospitals or 3000 primary schools. But Australia’s contract with state-owned French company Naval Group to build 12 “Attack-class” submarines at a cost of $50 billion (and rising) has raised eyebrows since it was first announced in April 2016 by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. And it’s now facing a further multibillion-dollar blowout, with the latest estimate sitting at around $79 billion.
Now some experts warn the new submarines -- which will be designed from scratch in France but built in South Australia -- could be obsolete by the time they come into action in the 2030s, with potential delays leaving Australia’s military exposed as the current fleet of Collins submarines reach the end of their life. There are even calls to reverse the deal, at a cost of millions in penalties, freeing up Australia to consider other options.