CANBERRA: According to the sources, Australia formally signed a $50 billion "strategic partnership" with France to build 12 states of the art submarines Monday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the "very audacious plan" at a ceremony in Canberra as "part of Australia's biggest ever peace-time investment in defence".
The first submarine is expected to be finished in the early 2030s. Critics say that is too late: the waters to Australia's north and east are the scene of an intense struggle between the United States, China and regional powers, who are all vying for influence.
Beijing has made territorial claims to much of the South China Sea -- a marine thoroughfare that is vital to maintaining the supply of ores, minerals and crude that fuel the Chinese economy