Exail.comAustralia’s submarine company ASC Pty Ltd (ASC), has been selected as the Australian Government’s Sovereign Submarine Partner to sustain and jointly-build the nation’s nuclear-powered submarines.

The announcement recognises ASC’s over-35-year experience and expertise as the original builder, and ongoing sustainer of the Collins Class submarine fleet. ASC has demonstrated its unrivalled capability in Australian submarine construction, combat systems integration, testing, commissioning and certification on the Collins Class program.

ASC has successfully established and developed ‘green field’ submarine construction and sustainment capability through growing and retaining a highly skilled workforce; and developing and managing a comprehensive domestic and international supply chain. Today, ASC holds the highest concentration of submarine expertise in the nation and it is well positioned to deliver on the Australian Government’s nuclear-submarine program requirements.

As the Australian Government’s Sovereign Submarine Sustainment Partner, ASC will sustain the nation’s nuclear-powered submarines in Australia, including visiting US and UK submarines, Australia’s sovereign Virginia Class submarines, and Australia’s SSNAUKUS submarines which will be built at Osborne in South Australia.

USS South Dakota Homecoming
GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 18, 2022) The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS South Dakota (SSN 790) transits the Thames River during a homecoming event at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joshua Karsten)

In the near term, ASC will provide sustainment for visiting US Virginia Class and UK submarines at Garden Island, Western Australia. This work will commence with a rotational presence of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines. In the interim, ASC personnel will undergo Virginia Class sustainment training, including on-the-job training deployments to the Pearl Harbor shipyard in Hawaii from late 2024.

As Australia acquires its sovereign Virginia Class submarines, ASC will integrate Virginia Class sustainment with its existing Collins Class submarine sustainment program to deliver consistent submarine availability to the Royal Australian Navy. ASC will also be responsible for sustaining the SSN AUKUS submarines, including their short-term, medium-term and deep-cycle maintenance.

ASC and BAE Systems have been selected as the Sovereign Submarine Build Partners and will collaborate to form an incorporated joint venture to construct the SSN-AUKUS submarines at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. Work on the first submarine is scheduled to be underway before the end of this decade, with delivery to the Royal Australian Navy from the early 2040s.

The collaboration between ASC and BAE Systems will be integral to the success of the nuclear-powered submarine program and will ensure that Australia establishes a strong sovereign submarine building capability for the future. ASC looks forward to working with BAE Systems to deliver this history making program. ASC will establish new company entities and a physical presence in both the UK and the US to facilitate its AUKUS partner collaborations.

The nuclear-powered submarine program will be the biggest industrial undertaking Australia has ever embarked upon, both in scale and technical complexity. Accordingly, there will be many opportunities for prospective Australian suppliers and skilled employees to become involved in the program.

ASC looks forward to working with its current and future supply chain partners, and the Australian workforce to execute these programs. Potential suppliers and appropriately skilled workers who aspire to participate in the nuclear-powered submarine program can register their interest at: asc.com.au/aukus

Bruce Carter, chairman of ASC, said, “The decision to select ASC as a Sovereign Submarine Partner assures Australia’s sovereign submarine capability for generations to come. ASC has proven over its 35-year+ history that it has the capability to establish a shipyard, assemble a skilled workforce, develop a robust sovereign supply chain, and build an entirely new class of submarine – the Collins Class, our first-ever Australian-built submarine. ASC has the skills, knowledge and experience to replicate that feat within the nuclear-powered submarine program.”

Stuart Whiley,, Managing Director and CEO of ASC, said, “This decision marks the beginning of an exciting new era for our company, and ASC is immensely proud and honoured that the Australian Government has entrusted us with this significant responsibility to contribute to the nation’s security. When the Collins class program was launched in the 1980s, there were detractors who said Australian industry could not complete such an ambitious program; they argued there were not enough workers with the necessary skills. But within the organisation, there was a high level of confidence about our ability to complete the task; we had a sense of enthusiasm and optimism, and a strong resolve to succeed. History shows that ASC successfully grew a skilled workforce to build and maintain an asset as complex and unique as the Collins Class submarine fleet. We are confident that we can do it again with nuclear-powered submarines. As Australia embarks on the most significant phase in its shipbuilding history, it’s time to rekindle the enthusiasm and optimism that accompanied the initial Collins Class build. I encourage young people and businesses to seize the opportunities presented by the nation’s new nuclear-powered submarine program.”

Government statement on decision
Today’s announcement of Australia’s sovereign submarine build and sustainment partners demonstrates the Albanese Government’s focus on maximising Australian industry involvement and jobs in the build and sustainment of Australia’s next generation conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines, the government said in a statement following the announcement.

A strong defence industry is critical to providing the deterrence our strategic circumstances demand. This is a whole-of-nation undertaking that will see around 20,000 jobs created across Australia, with unprecedented opportunities for Australian industry at home and abroad with our AUKUS partners. It is the opportunity to build a Future Made in Australia, by Australians, with record investments in defence, skills, jobs and infrastructure.

The continued development of our industry and workforce is not just important for Australia, but is also pivotal for building more robust and resilient supply chains for all AUKUS partners. This is a key element and strength of the AUKUS trilateral partnership.

The Albanese Government will continue collaboration with AUKUS partners and industry, including ASC Pty Ltd and BAE Systems to develop Australian supply chains and facilitate industry participation in the United Kingdom and United States supply chains. Part of this coordination is the development of an efficient vendor qualification process.

To this end, in January the Defence Industry Vendor Qualification Program was launched. With the assistance of AUKUS partners, the program is reducing barriers and streamlining process as we accelerate the entry of Australian products into UK and US supply chains. Once qualified, Australian companies will be well-positioned to contribute to international supply chains, working with UK and US industrial partners.

In its initial wave, the program is working with 26 companies to qualify supplies across four product families to meet US supply chain requirements. The next wave will expand the program to qualify suppliers into both the US and UK supply chains and will commence in mid-2024.

Today, we are pleased to announce new initiatives through the Skills and Training Academy to develop Australia’s workforce to build and sustain our nuclear-powered submarines.  These pilot programs will be delivered in close consultation with Australia’s Sovereign Submarine Build Partner, Sovereign Submarine Sustainment Partner and the shipbuilding industry and include:

  • Non-Destructive Testing Traineeships to grow the testing technician workforce.
  • Development of Australia’s welding and fabrication pipeline, including:
    • The Welding Aptitude Testing Initiative, providing entry-level workers and mid-career skilled workers opportunities to test their skills and explore welding careers in shipbuilding.
    • A welding bridging initiative for new entrants, existing workers and advanced apprentices in adjacent industries to uplift their skills to fill welding roles in shipbuilding and the nuclear-powered submarine program.
  • International placements for a ‘train the trainer’ pilot.
    • Opportunities for Australia’s VET teacher workforce to conduct short-term placements in the US to enable them to build an understanding of AUKUS trilateral training requirements and methods, and support students with understanding nuclear-powered submarine career pathways.

The Defence Industry Pathways Program will also expand to include pathways into the nuclear-powered submarine program. Through an international placements program under the Skills and Training Academy, Australian trainers will be placed within the US nuclear-powered submarine training system to learn skills to bring back to Australia.  In order to support the building of the workforce in support of Submarine Rotational Force‑West, this will include personnel from the South Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia.

International Placements
Australia is working closely with our AUKUS partners to build the pathways for international placements as part of the upskilling of Australia’s domestic industrial workforce.  Following the recent passage by the United States of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), Australian industry has benefited from an easing of restrictions that has enabled unprecedented training opportunities in US shipyards, which will enhance the skills and qualifications of Australian workers

Partnering with US and UK industry will be an important element of our sovereign build and sustainment partners growing the specialist skills and capacity required to build and sustain nuclear-powered submarines, leveraging their decades of expertise.

AUKUS partners are committed to ensuring that all activities to build Australia’s future submarine workforce are undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the highest standards for nuclear non-proliferation.

All work by Australian personnel in the UK and US will remain consistent with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations, including with respect to nuclear non-proliferation.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said, “The announcement of the Sovereign Submarine Build and Sustainment Partners is opening up more avenues for Australian industry and jobs. What AUKUS is doing is allowing Australian industry to further invest here, but there are opportunities also opening up with our UK and US partners. Be it the build partnership with ASC and BAE Systems or the recent passing of the 2024 National Defence Authorization Act, there are now multiple new avenues and opportunities for Australian industry, which will expand the defence industrial base across all three countries – and realise the historic opportunities the pathway envisioned when we announced it last year.”

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said, “The importance of this announcement cannot be overstated. It heralds unprecedented levels of scientific, technological and industrial collaboration that will see Australian industry contributing to the combined industrial bases of all three AUKUS partners. It is particularly significant that the first work undertaken by Australian industry in relation to the build and sustainment program will be for our AUKUS partners, underscoring the immense opportunities for Australian industry and workers. This is a critical step that underscores the Albanese Government’s commitment to maximising opportunities for Australian industry and creating jobs and ensures construction of Australia’s first SSN‑AUKUS submarine can begin in Australia before the end of this decade.”

The Western Australian government said it welcomes the Australian government’s decision to appoint the ASC as the prime contractor responsible for the delivery of AUKUS submarine sustainment and maintenance services. The announcement reaffirms WA’s key position in the AUKUS security partnership.

ASC has delivered sustainment and maintenance works in Western Australia for over three decades in support of the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarine fleet. This includes the Collins Class mid-cycle docking works conducted at the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson. Existing Collins Class sustainment by the ASC employs approximately 600 Western Australians already and is supported by approximately 150 small and medium enterprises. This announcement will provide certainty in long-term employment opportunities for Western Australians for decades to come.


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  1. quote ” combat systems integration “. Inference being bugger the native combat system ”

    still, good to see things underway. Hopefully ASC will learn a lot from BAE systems

  2. Yours truly was correct in predicting there would be further tranches of submarine industrial base cash gifted by Australia https://gentleseas.blogspot.com/2023/11/virginia-purchase-us-dollars-vs.html . But I assumed that would all go to the US rather than to the UK for the much later SSN-AUKUS Project.

    Such early money for the UK may well be a sign of Australia hedging against the Virginia “deal” falling through.

    Be they US or UK designed SSNs I think Australia is gifting such large sums because the SSNs should mainly be seen as potential long range nuclear strike platforms. They will eventually be armed with nuclear tipped hypersonic missiles as deterrents against China.

    If Australia merely wanted submarines as torpedo and conventional Tomahawk carriers we could stick with SSKs rather than paying about 5 times more for SSNs. So, via SSNs, Australia is paying its most powerful allies, entry fees for the weapons platforms necessary to be in the Nuclear Weapons Club, by the 2050s, if not before.

    • if we stuck to areas like South China sea and stationed them in Asia, along with the RN, yes, the SSKs would be better, and have an endless supply of fuel, but if we need long legs in the indo/pacific and antarctica, then nuke boat required especially given we’ve only a month’s fuel supply to engage in hostilities

      They must have known about the UK situation here https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-02/simon-fell-rejects-peter-duttons-uk-submarine-claim/102047020

      • The range/endurance issue for conventional submarines could largely be fixed with a resupply facility at somewhere like Exmouth – or my favorite, Christmas Island. When you combine that with modern AIP systems with underwater endurance of +20 days, the advantages of nuclear-powered submarines are reduced to sustained high speed transit.

  3. Hi Kym and Alan

    There is a diesel refuelling facility for passing Collins subs at Exmouth. This facility was first built for UK and mainly US SSKs fighting in WWII.

    However getting an SSK from the Exmouth refuel to be in striking distance of the Chinese coast would require about 2 more refuels and 2 slow weeks more travel. Frequent refuelling is required to always keep SSK diesel tanks more than 50% full (for emergencies).

    So about 3 weeks total to get Aus based SSKs to China is too slow in a war. In any case when they run their diesels new Chinese sensors can detect them in the South China Sea.

    As Australia has only one and sometimes two Collins on operations if they were based in “Asia” they couldn’t serve their highest purpose of defending Australian ports and bases.

    In any case the reason they are main based at HMAS Stirling (south Perth) is for their regular missions of travelling north to cover some of the Indonesian straits.

    • Thanks Pete – good to know. I always wondered what remained from US and Dutch facilities for their subs during WW2. I wasn’t aware that the UK also had boats out here. However, I disagree with some of your maths – I don’t see why a Collins (or any other conventional subs) would need more refueling stops on the way to the South China Sea as Exmouth is already 1,000km closer to where they want to be than Stirling. Taking on fuel and stores on Christmas Island would be a further dramatic improvement in the equation.

  4. Hi Kym

    The US WW2 SSKs [1] refuelling in the (not too far north) safety of Exmouth gave them longer (about a week extra) on patrol up to and including the East China Sea, where Japanese tankers started to “bottleneck” before the tankers reached Japanese ports.

    Yes UK subs too at Fremantle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle_submarine_base#1944

    “The second half of 1944 saw the arrival of British submarines at Fremantle, which previously had been engaged in the Mediterranean, then moved to Ceylon and, finally, to Western Australia. The first to arrive was HMS Porpoise, on 10 August, followed by the depot ship HMS Maidstone in early September while the eleven submarines attached to the ship first carried out patrols in the Strait of Malacca before arriving at Fremantle as well. It was the first time that Royal Navy ships were based in Western Australia, with the contingent also including two Dutch submarines.[25] While the new base was very popular with the British submariners, offering superior opportunities for recreation between patrols, in comparison to Ceylon,[26] the remote location meant the submarine patrols were longer than the previous short ones from the island. With 52 days on one patrol from Fremantle, HMS Tantalus set a new record for the longest patrol of a British submarine during the war so far from October to December 1944.[27]”

    The lack of space at Christmas Island, locals disliking the prospect of a larger naval base there and mainly lack of strategic depth has always eliminated Christmas Island as an option. Lack of strategic depth of base possibilities in the far-far north (vulnerable to lightening sea or air attacks)
    persuaded all submarine operators, US, UK, Dutch and (permanently) Australian to utilise the strategic depth of the Perth area. Also R&R and a large necessary support population in Perth were/are factors.

    • Thanks for that additional detail – very interesting. Christmas Island has plenty of space – trust me, I’ve actually been there. Admittedly it was a few years ago but I can assure readers it has not shrunk in the meantime. Given the environmental devastation caused by decades of phosphate mining I sincerely doubt that the small local population would object to some additional infrastructure. I’ve been very careful to write about a resupply facility because the word “base” triggers concerns about having to relocate families. For strategic depth by all means keep HMAS Stirling as the base, just find other places to top up the diesel and take on some fresh food.

  5. Just a thought, Has anybody looked at the concept of a AUV design to refuel Submarines ( and Surface vessels) at sea (its a bit James Bond I know). The U.S. Stingray concept prompted the idea. Perhaps even on a smaller scale for use with Spearfish or Ghost Shark ,Something to ponder .

  6. Hi Michael

    I haven’t seen any discussion of AUVs being used as underwater refuelers of subs but I think its a good idea. Some could be based at Exmouth and travel 1,500 km NNW to refuel Collins on Collins northerly journey and again on Collins southerly return journey.

    The beauty of the AUV idea is all refuels could be fully submerged – avoiding Collins or refuel base facilities exposing themselves to Chinese sea or air attack.


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