Client navies frequently make technology transfers a key component of major naval programmes in order to meet sovereignty requirements and strengthen local industries.
Many countries embarking on major naval programmes aim to maximise the benefits for their local industries, or, more specifically, to develop or strengthen their expertise, expand their economy, create jobs, and ensure their technological and operational independence. France has long responded favourably to such requests, and, in the process, has won a reputation as a world leader as regards the scale and scope of its technology transfer programmes. The French naval defence industry in particular is currently engaged in major TT programmes in a number of countries.
Surface combatant programmes: In 2008 and 2009, Singapore-based partner ST Marine delivered five Formidable-class frigates built with DCNS technical assistance. In 2016, DCNS began a new programme in Egypt, setting up a local office and working in partnership with Alexandria Shipyard to build three Gowind 2500 corvettes. As for the Formidable-class frigates, the first of class was built in France where employees of the client’s local contractors received on-site training. Some 300 Egyptian engineers and technicians are working at DCNS’s Lorient yard on the construction of the Elfateh corvette, the first of the new class, scheduled for completion in 2017. The Elfateh’s sisterships will be built in Alexandria, with the first scheduled for completion in 2020.
In Malaysia, DCNS set up a local subsidiary know as BDNC with local shipbuilder Boustead Naval Shipyard. DCNS and BDNC are helping Boustead to design and build six Gowind corvettes for the Royal Malaysian Navy. Malaysian contractors are also acquiring new skills in through-life support with the first major refits of the country’s two Scorpene submarines delivered in 2009 and 2010.
Submarines for international client navies: Submarine TT programmes are among biggest ever undertaken by DCNS. In Mumbai, India, the group has been working with Mazagon Docks Limited since 2006 on the production of six locally built Scorpene submarines. The first began sea trials in Q2 2016 and is scheduled for delivery in 2017. Meanwhile the partnership between the French and Indian contractors has been going from strength to strength. This transfer of technology — ToT being the usual term in India — covers everything from pressure hull fabrication to purchasing specifications and the production of advanced equipment. Indeed, DCNS hosted MDL engineers and subcontractors in France while they received specialised training in equipment design and production.
Indian Scorpene during sea trials in 2016 (© Indian navy)
France’s comprehensive approach to TT applies to most aspects of naval programmes from vessel design and construction to shipboard systems and training. DCNS also shares its maintenance expertise and provides technical assistance for port infrastructure upgrades and the design of new naval bases and shipyards. To quote just one example, the company has been selected to upgrade facilities at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia in preparation for frigate and replenishment oiler modernisation programmes.
The most comprehensive naval TT programme in the world today is the strategic partnership France signed with Brazil in 2009. The agreement calls for the construction of four Scorpene 2000 (S-BR) submarines and technical assistance for the construction of the non-nuclear parts of Brazil’s first SSN (SN-BR). The Scorpenes are being built in a brand-new shipyard and will operate from a new naval base currently under construction at Itaguaí, to the west of Rio de Janeiro. DCNS is transferring all the necessary know-how to give the Brazilian Navy efficient, ultramodern facilities for the construction, maintenance and operation of its new fleet. Working through a joint company called ICN, formed with Odebrecht of Brazil, DCNS drew up the overall specifications for the infrastructure and the industrial resources, all of which will be managed locally.
Dozens of Brazilian engineers and technicians have spent time in France since 2012 learning how to build submarines, fabricate pressure hulls, and install and integrate shipboard equipment. Much of this training took place on a section of S-BR 1, which was built in Cherbourg and transferred to Brazil in early 2013. The Itaguaí fabrication and pre-assembly plant, now operational, continues to work on the first and second of class.
Just as the programme partners did in India, DCNS and Odebrecht have helped a vast network of local suppliers to emerge in Brazil thanks to the training provided by DCNS and its French equipment manufacturers. The aim here is to progressively transfer the production of various shipboard systems to these local suppliers. A welding school has also been set up along with an extensive teaching and training programmes designed in partnership with the relevant ministries, organisations and schools in the two countries to offer Brazilians courses in welding theory and practice. The aim here is to strengthen and develop Brazilian industry by training the country’s future engineers, qualified technicians and skilled workers. This is crucially important for establishing and maintaining the know-how needed to build and maintain the country’s submarines.