Minister for Defence – Media Release – Submarine Technology

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith today welcomed the agreement reached by Australia and Sweden in relation to Intellectual Property rights for submarine design and technology. 

Following extensive negotiations between the Defence organisations of the two countries, I am confident that this agreement will pave the way for Swedish involvement in Australia’s Future Submarine Program and also assist Australia with the ongoing sustainment of the Collins Class fleet. 

This agreement gives effect to Australia’s rights to use and disclose Swedish Intellectual Property rights for complex submarine design and technology. 

Defence materiel cooperation has been a key feature of the Sweden-Australia relationship, most notably in the area of submarine technology where our collaboration over the construction and support of the Collins submarines has spanned two decades, and more recently, with the vital ‘sense and warn’ capability provided to protect our troops in Afghanistan.  This mutually beneficial relationship is expected to continue into the future. 

The Australian Government had previously announced it was considering four broad options for a fleet of Future Submarines to replace the current Collins Class fleet that is in service with the Royal Australian Navy.  The 2013 Defence White Paper released on 3 May has focussed future work on two of these options, namely: 

- An evolved design that enhances the capabilities of existing off-the-shelf designs, including the Collins Class; and

- An entirely new developmental submarine.  

In May 2012, the Australian Government announced it would engage Swedish ship designer and builder Kockums AB, the original designer of the Collins Class submarine, to undertake initial design studies for the evolved Collins.   

An evolved design would build on the high level of capabilities of the existing Collins Class submarine design, address known deficiencies and obsolescence issues and provide potential capability enhancements. 

A precursor to this engagement with Kockums AB, was the need to reach agreement with Sweden on the use of Collins Class Submarine Technology for the Future Submarine Program, and also to agree a framework and principles for the negotiation of Intellectual Property rights for Australia to be able to utilise other Swedish submarine technology for the Future Submarine Program, if Australia decides to proceed with an evolved Collins solution.  

The ability for Australia to utilise Swedish submarine technology is a critical element not only of the work on the Future Submarine Program, but also in addressing the continuing challenges with the maintenance and sustainment of the Collins Class fleet through to the end of their service life.  This new agreement replaces the Commonwealth’s existing rights as established by the licence agreement struck in June 2004. 

The ability for Sweden to ensure that any arrangement did not compromise its sovereignty and ensured compliance with export control and security legislation was also paramount in the negotiated outcome. 

I acknowledge that the respective agencies responsible for the acquisition and support of military equipment, the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) have worked hard to reach a satisfactory agreement on these complex Intellectual Property and submarine technology matters.

I welcome the agreement and look forward to continuing close cooperation between our two countries.

Media contact:

Minister Smith’s office: (02) 6277 7800; Andrew Porter 0419 474 392;  Sacha Fenton 0467 784 528


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