The Australian Government has decided not to launch an open tender for its new submarines, as part of its efforts to replace the Royal Australian Navy's ageing Collins-class vessels, officials have revealed.
Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, treasurer Joe Hockey said: "We need to make decisions now and we don't have time to go through a speculation process."
A spokesperson for Australian Defence Minister David Johnston was quoted by Reuters as saying that decision to select a manufacturer is yet to be finalised.
The decision places Japanese defence contractors as the preferred manufacturers of the new fleet. European manufactures, including Saab, DCNS and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, have also shown an interest.
In September, reports emerged that Australia was likely to procure ten Japanese-built Soryu-class submarines, in a bid to upgrade its naval fleet and replace the Collins-class vessels, from 2030 onwards.
A former senior Japanese navy commander was quoted by Reuters as saying: "I think Japan is the only option for Australia because neither Germany, France nor Sweden has built 4,000t-class diesel submarines."
However, the move is said to be contrary to the Australian Government's promise to support the country's ship builders with the construction of a new fleet at home.
South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon told the news agency: "This is no way to run Australia's biggest defence procurement this century.
"The government is going against leading experts in the naval procurement and turning their backs on thousands of Australian workers, engineers and the skills and expertise they offer our country."
Powered by an air-independent diesel-electric propulsion system, the 4,200t Soryu-class vessels can remain submerged longer than other traditionally powered submarines.