SYDNEY -- Hungry for a defense contract worth tens of billions of U.S. dollars, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has expressed a willingness to construct Australia's next-generation submarines entirely in-country.
The company "will be happy to oblige" if asked to build all of the new vessels here, President Shunichi Miyanaga told a news conference Thursday.
Australia is expected to spend more than 4 trillion yen ($35.6 billion) on the project. Mitsubishi Heavy, which constructed Soryu-class submarines for Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force, has been bidding with the Japanese government.
The Japanese team's strength is "reliability and performance that have been proven with the Soryu," Miyanaga said.
If Japan is selected, the sub's combat system will be developed with the U.S.
Such rival bidders as Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems have been actively lobbying the Australian government. Miyanaga's visit marked his first to Australia regarding the new subs.
"I conveyed our desire and determination to take part in this important long-term project" to politicians and defense industry officials, Miyanaga said.
Mitsubishi Heavy is also trying to win public support through such means as full-page newspaper advertising. The company is "now working to catch up with rivals" to make up for a late start on the public relations front, the president said.
Canberra will specify how many next-generation subs it wants to build in a defense white paper due out soon. It will then select the joint development and production partner, possibly by midyear. But with a general election expected by year-end, the selection process could well be pushed back.