Mon Dec 19, 2016 09:23AM
France’s Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian (2nd-R) talks with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne (R) after addressing the media on the hangar deck of the HMAS Adelaide in Sydney, December 19, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
France’s Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian (2nd-R) talks with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne (R) after addressing the media on the hangar deck of the HMAS Adelaide in Sydney, December 19, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

France and Australia are set to sign a major contract on building nuclear-powered submarines worth billions of dollars.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and France’s Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian are scheduled to sign the accord in the Australian city of Adelaide on Tuesday.

Under the contract, French industrial group DNCS will open a branch in Adelaide to build a scaled-down version of Shortfin Barracuda stealth submarines.

The deal to build a dozen submarines has been described by Paris as the “contract of the century,” according to media on Monday.

Australian and French defense ministers said they had given top priority to concealing the details of the contract after data was leaked from a previous French submarine contract with India.

Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne said in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, that the fleet of submarines was the “largest defense procurement program in Australia’s history.”

Payne added that the contract will be a blueprint for a “legal framework under which Australia and France will partner on the future submarine program over the coming decades.”

“Security priorities are embedded” in the contract, Payne said.

This image shows a view of a plant run by French industrial group DCNS, which specializes in naval defense and energy, in Cherbourg-Octeville, northwestern France, December 14, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Payne said the first vessel is expected to be delivered by around 2030.

The nuclear-powered Barracudas are to replace Australia’s outdated diesel and electric-powered Collins submarines.

Payne refrained from giving details on the speed and range of the new vessels, only saying that they would be “regionally superior.”

The overall cost of the 12 submarines, which includes separate agreements with Australian contractors and American arms dealers, amounts to 37 billion dollars.

American arms contractor Lockheed Martin is going to provide the combat systems for the Barracudas.