French firm eyes Brazil's naval expansion

April 26, 2012 at 6:56 AM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, April 26 (UPI) -- French defense manufacturer DCNS is lining up to compete for a multibillion-dollar Brazilian navy program for a number of ships after winning a submarine development contract.

DCNS will be working in partnership with Brazilian consulting and engineering firm Progen, already a DCNS partner in the submarine project.

The Brazilian navy plans to add an unspecified number of advanced surface naval craft to its inventory in addition to the four diesel electric submarines that are in an initial construction phase.

Brazil is expanding its navy to increase defense capability in the country's river transport networks and in the high seas, where a large deep-water oil exploration and development is under way.

The cost or numbers of planned conventional naval craft are yet to be revealed.

Brazil's existing plans call for developing local capacity for building naval craft of different sizes. Most bilateral contracts have focused on substantial technology transfers to enable Brazilian shipyards to build advanced craft for defense and civilian transport use.

Brazil's first four new diesel-electric submarines will be variants of the CM-2000 French-Spanish Scorpene design, which has also been sold to Brazil's neighbor Chile, India and Malaysia. The Brazilian versions of the Scorpene submersibles are likely to be longer than other classes in production or in service elsewhere.

Prices of the Brazilian version are also not known but are estimated by defense industry analysts at about $600 million each, slightly more than the costs to be incurred by either the Chilean or Indian navies.

Likewise, the planned nuclear submarine is expected to be larger than France's SSN Rubis Amethyste and SS Barracuda class vessels.

A 6,000-ton vessel would fit somewhere between France's new SSN Barracuda class and the U.S. 6,450-ton SSN Los Angeles class, the Defense Industry Daily said.

Construction on the nuclear submarine is to start in 2015, with 2021 as the likely completion and commissioning date. Brazil has set aside an estimated $2 billion for construction.

Progen, which is playing a key role in purchasing locally produced equipment for the Brazilian navy's Prosub submarine development and construction project, is also set to become partner in the conventional surface naval craft program.

DCNS said its partnership with Progen will enable it to comply with Brazilian navy requirements regarding local equipment meeting the strictest quality standards and help it to establish long-term ties with Brazilian companies.

Brazil is upgrading its naval base at Itaguai, a port just south of Rio de Janeiro, to handle larger numbers of vessels.

A nuclear submarine base will be built by the Sociedade de Proposito Especifico consortium, in which DCNS has 49 percent ownership. Brazil's Odebrecht comprises 50 percent of the consortium and the Brazilian navy holds the remaining 1 percent but with veto power.

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