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Submarines: France tries its luck with Canada – World


“It is very important to get together and hold a meeting in Paris or Ottawa very soon and discuss strategic issues,” French Ambassador to Ottawa Kareen Rispal told the Canadian Press. While Canada’s position vis-à-vis the triple military alliance Aukus and the Chinese threat would be on the menu for a meeting, the discussions should not be limited to these issues.

Canada launched, this summer, “the study of a project of Canadian patrol submarine (…) to replace the current models”, declared to the Canadian Press agency, the spokesperson of the Navy, Lieutenant Commander Jordan Holder.

In 1998, Ottawa purchased four used diesel-electric powered submarines from the United Kingdom. London had touted almost new equipment, bought 2.28 billion Canadian dollars (1.58 billion euros) and resold 750 million dollars (520 million euros) to Canadian cousins.

The British submarine fiasco

The good deal turned out to be a fiasco. The four buildings, delivered between 2000 and 2004, would have cost between three and four billion Canadian dollars in repairs. On October 5, 2004, as the Canadians took delivery of the last submersible, it caught fire. A Canadian officer was killed. Others were injured. The other submarines suffered extensive damage. The entire fleet is currently in dry dock.

There is a strong Anglo-American tropism in Canadian practice. This does not exclude European purchases from time to time

After the British fiasco, does France have a chance to sell its equipment in Canada? “As far as arms purchases are concerned, there is a strong Anglo-American tropism in Canadian practice. This does not exclude European purchases from time to time (for example the German Leopard tank) ”, confides, however, the director of the Center for International Studies and Research in Montreal, Frédéric Mérand.

The French precedent

France competed with the United Kingdom to supply ten to twelve nuclear-powered submarines in 1988 to Ottawa. The project was aborted in 1989. Too expensive. If it is difficult to say who would have won this contract, the media of the time gave a head start to the French submersibles, less expensive than the British and accompanied by a transfer of technology.

If the trend today is not towards military spending in Ottawa, the exclusion of Canada from the Aukus, which was not even warned of the negotiations by its allies, could ultimately change the situation. , even if Justin Trudeau recently declared that his country “is not now or anytime soon in the market” of nuclear submarines.