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Australia warned of submarines capability gap

(Xinhua)

13:59, February 21, 2012

CANBERRA, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith said here Tuesday that there would be a risk of a capability gap between Australia's aging submarines and arrival of new submarines.

Addressing a conference hosted by Australian Defense Magazine, Stephen said "Because the new submarines will be constructed over the course of the next three decades, there is a risk of a capability gap between the retirement of the Collins submarines and entry into service of the Future Submarines."

The minister said few submarines would be available to conduct operations during the possible gap.

Managing Director Chris Jenkins of Thales, one of Australia's largest defense companies, told the conference participants that Australia also runs the risk of losing the industrial capability needed to underpin national defense.

"We risk not having the essential industrial depth necessary to underpin the defense of Australia," he said, noting manufacturing industry was facing difficult times with the global downturn.

"This could become a devastating time, with many critical industrial capabilities lost in the wash and turbulence of the structural changes under way in the Australian economy," he said.

In the 2009 Defense White Paper, Australia is supposed to acquire 12 new submarines, the largest and most complex ones ever in Australia. But the economic downturn would very likely delay the delivery of the vessels.

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