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Australia opens door to Swedish subs export

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Australia opens door to Swedish subs export
An artist impression of what a new-generation submarine could look like. Photo: Saab
07:11 CET+01:00
Australia's opposition demanded on Wednesday that Sweden should not be excluded from a major new submarine-building programme, countering Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government.

Bill Shorten, leader of Australia's Labor Party presented a bipartisan proposal to the $50 billion AUS (329 billion kronor, $38.8 billion) submarine project, including inviting Sweden – alongside Germany, France and Japan – to submit general proposals before formal tenders are reduced to one or two, reported Reuters.

“Under this process, Australia would invite the most prominent, relevant submarine designers from Germany, France, Japan and Sweden to participate,” Shorten said at Australia's Future Submarine Summit held in Adelaide on Wednesday.

Swedish defence company Saab has previously expressed a strong interest in building the submarines alongside Adelaide-based Australian shipbuilder ASC.

But as The Local reported in February, Abbott of Australia's Liberal Party accused Sweden – who worked with Australia to build the six ageing Collins-class vessels being replaced – of failing or design any new models for the past two decades as his government invited only France, Germany and Japan to compete to build new submarines.

“The last Australian submarine came off the production line in about 2001...the last Swedish submarine came of the production line in 1996, so it's almost two decades since Sweden built a submarine,” he said at the time.

Saab did not want to comment the new developments when approached by Swedish news wire TT.

"Australia is an important market to us...But we will not comment on the current political situation," press spokesman Sebastian Carlsson said.

Sweden is one of the few countries in the world currently developing a next-generation submarine, and Saab has previously said that "a partnership would provide Australia with an opportunity to have an advanced submarine which meets Australia’s unique requirements."

Australia is looking to build 12 submarines that feature similar long-range features to those already used by the Australian navy, but with superior stealth and sensor performance.

Under Shorten's proposal, Australia would invite Sweden, Germany, France and Japan to make initial proposals. After a 12-18 month process one to two submarine builders would then be selected to provide formal tenders.

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