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Australian ambassador gets glimpse of American submarine know-how in visit to EB

By Jennifer McDermott

Publication: The Day

Published April 10. 2013 4:00AM
U.S. ally will get help with new class of boats

Groton - The Hon. Kim Beazley said during his first visit to Electric Boat Tuesday he saw many things he would like to see incorporated into the design of Australia's future class of submarines to replace the Collins class, from ways to ensure the modules of a submarine are effectively tested to cost-saving initiatives and production techniques.

The Australian ambassador said he is confident that with EB's help, his country's new submarine will be successful.

"The fact that the best submarine designers in the world are on your side is going to be absolutely critical to the country over the next 10 years," Beazley said.

EB has had an agreement with Australia to provide technical programmatic advice since 2002, and the six Collins boats have "benefited enormously" from that advice, Beazley said.

One EB employee is in Australia full-time, and experts are sent overseas as needed. It's "highly likely" the shipyard will work even more closely with Australia once the new class is further along, said Kristin Fletcher, the chief information officer and vice president of information technology, planning and communications at EB.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, invited Beazley to EB after they met in Washington, D.C. Unlike other defense contractors, EB does not export its technologies, but some of the "amazing knowledge" retained at the shipyard is shared with a few allies, and "Australia's Navy is certainly one of them," Courtney said.

EB also works closely with the United Kingdom.

Beazley, who helped develop the Australian submarine program, went from EB to the Naval Submarine Base, where he toured the USS Missouri, a new Virginia-class submarine.

The members of the Virginia class are "very good submarines," Beazley said, but the Australian government is planning to build about a dozen diesel-electric submarines, not nuclear-powered ones. It's useful for the United States to have an ally that is operating conventional boats in southeast Asia, he added.

"The United States needs its allies to do niches," Beazley said.

Rear Adm. Richard P. Breckenridge, the commander of Submarine Group Two, said the U.S. Navy has a lot of responsibility in the Western Pacific and needs "support from a great country like Australia."

The vice chief of Australia's Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, visited Groton two weeks ago and toured the USS Virginia, Breckenridge said. The two countries participate in joint exercises together, and both navies use the same torpedo for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

"Whatever capabilities they're able to bring to the fight will supplement us nicely," Breckenridge said. "Their success is our success."

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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