MONS visited Naval Group in Paris to get an update on its latest naval ambitions
As far as surface ships are concerned, Naval Group (NG) has recently put in a bid for the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) programme. Together with Fincantieri, its partner on the class since the beginning, NG proposed the Frégate Multi Mission (FREMM) adapted to respond to the requirements stated by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN): the platform is Italian and the combat management system is French. The bid, which the duo submitted directly to the Canadian Ministry of Defence rather than the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) department, was turned down by Canada early in December last year precisely because it had not been submitted as instructed. Despite this response, the duo has stated that, should Canada decide to change its mind, they remain open for discussion, and NG told MONS: “Our solution is not only sea proven, which was one of the requirements of the RCN; it is also, from a tax payers’ point of view, cheaper than other proposed solutions and, if the orders are put in soon enough, production could start very early in Canada therefore avoiding a gap in ship building that could create unemployment.”
The Group is also currently building two Frégates de Taille Intermediaire (FTI – export variant ‘Belh@rra’) for the Egyptian Navy: one in Lorient, at the NG shipyard, and one in Egypt at the Alexandria Shipyard Company (ASC). The contract included the option for two more frigates, which Egypt and NG have now begun discussing.
Finally, prior to the severe financial crisis that hit the country in 2010, Greece had ordered six FTI from NG; however, due to the crisis the order had been frozen and government spending focused elsewhere. As the crisis calms down and the state of the Navy continues to require new platforms to face the continued and emerging challenges of the Mediterranean, the Greek government has resumed talks with NG to potentially buy a smaller number of ships, although it remains unclear to date whether these will be FTI (as originally planned) or Corvettes Gowind (a smaller, yet still rather powerful, platform that would cost less for the Greek Navy).
As far as submarines are concerned, NG is looking at three markets at the moment. Following-up from the six ‘Scorpène’ submarines it has already sold to the Indian Navy (including Transfer of Technology), it has offered its ‘Scorpène’ again for the new Indian programme, P75i, which would require another six submarines. The advantage of NG in this bid is that it has already been working with local shipbuilder Magazine Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) for some years. NG is also planning to put in a proposal for the upcoming Royal Netherlands Navy replacement programme for its ‘Walrus’ class submarines due to retire by 2025. The programme has however suffered from some delays due to Dutch general elections held last year. Similarly, in Poland NG has put in a bid for three plus one ‘Scorpène’ class submarines, however due to the change of government they are now waiting to see how this will affect the budget and the favourites for the bid.
Finally, NG is also looking to expand in a new area: unmanned vehicles. For years the Group has been financing Research and Development in this domain and is presenting the outcomes of this research at the Unmanned Systems Exhibition and Conference (UMEX) at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.