The French shipbuilder Naval Group plans make an informal pitch to Italy, seeking to persuade the country to switch to its Scorpene attack submarine from the U212A boat made by German rival ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, a source close to the project has told Defense News.
Naval Group is expected to make a “proposition” of two Scorpene boats, the source said.
Italy has already taken delivery of four U212A submarines, built by Italian shipyard Fincantieri under license from TKMS.
The Italian Navy plans to sail a fleet of six subs, and Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said on Feb. 3 the funds to purchase two more would be included in Italy’s 2018 defense budget.
The total cost of the two subs would be €1 billion (U.S. $1.2 billion), she said.
Italy’s March 4 general election may serve as a key factor in persuading Rome to buy Scorpenes instead of the U212A. A change of government is seen as opening an opportunity for Naval Group to compete with TKMS. “Nothing is certain,” the source said.
Spokesmen for Fincantieri and Naval Group declined to comment.
French executives saw an Italian order for two more U212A boats as unhelpful considering Naval Group and Fincantieri are in detailed negotiations for industrial cooperation. A Franco-Italian agreement is expected in June.
One of the planned cooperation moves includes Naval Group adopting the Italian design for a fleet auxiliary tanker and adapting the vessels to meet French Navy requirements.
“The pathways for cooperation are being explored with Italy on the auxiliary tanker of the logistic fleet,” according to the annex to the French 2019-2025 military budget law. The first two ships are due for delivery in 2025, with the fleet to rise to four from the present three ships.
The twin-hull fleet tankers would be based on the Italian logistics-support ship A5335 Vulcano and would be built in France at Saint-Nazaire, northern France.
Other areas for cooperation include research and development, export offers, and equipment orders.
Italy launched the €1.1 billion procurement of the first pair of U-212As in 1998, and the €944 million buy of the second pair started in 2008.