Defense official defends French submarine-making capability

PARIS (AP) — The spokesperson for France’s Defense Ministry used Twitter to offer a robust defense of the country’s submarine-making capabilities and to criticize Australia’s decision to choose the United States as a partner in a major defense deal.

Defense Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean devoted a series of tweets to tearing into the deal, which also includes Britain. Some say Australia’s announcement last week pulled the diplomatic rug from under France’s feet.

“France has built more than 250 submarines” over 120 years, Grandjean said, and “the feedback in terms of engineering and know-how is considerable.”

Australia plans to cancel a multi-billion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire U.S. nuclear-powered vessels instead. The French government has suggested it was betrayed by the Indo-Pacific security deal.

Grandjean charged that Australia’s decision was “bad news” for Australians. He said the new AUKUS partnership will mean the country is likely to get the submarines a decade later than planned. Instead of 2030, “(now) it will be more like 2040,” he tweeted.

“That’s a long time, when you see how fast China is militarizing,” Grandjean warned.

He also addressed criticism directed at the French submarines that they may not have been quiet enough to do the job.

Grandjean said the conventional submarines offered by France were likely quieter, as a conventional submarine “does not have a permanent cooling system for its reactor in operation.”

He also explained why Australia’s change of heart stung France so badly. He said that on the same day as the unexpected AUKUS announcement, “the Australians wrote to France to say that they were satisfied with the submarine’s achievable performance and with the progress of the program.”

The U.S., Australia and Britain have insisted the diplomatic crisis wouldn’t affect their longer-term relations with France, even after Paris recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia for the first time in history because of the deal.

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