The leaders of the US, UK and Australia on Monday (13 March) announced details of their plan to create a fleet of next generation nuclear-powered submarines. Under the so-called AUKUS agreement, Australia will first receive at least three nuclear-powered submarines from the US. The group said they would also work together to create a new fleet using cutting-edge technology, including reactors made by Rolls-Royce in the UK. The pact is aimed at countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Under the deal outlined on Monday, members of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) will be embedded at US and UK submarine bases starting this year to gain the necessary skills to use the submarines. From 2027, the US and UK will base a small number of nuclear subs at a RAN base in Perth, Western Australia, before Australia buys three American Virginia-class submarines in the early 2030s – with options to purchase two more.
Read a transcript of the leaders’ remarks here.
Read a transcript of the US press ‘gaggle’ here.
Read the joint leaders statement on AUKUS here.
Read the fact sheet on the AUKUS Partnership here.
Read the statement from U.S. Secretary of State Blinken here.
Read the statement from U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin here.
Read the background press call by senior administration officials here.
“Today’s significant AUKUS announcement about Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines is the single biggest investment in our defence capability in our history and represents a transformational moment for our nation, our Defence Force and our economy,” the Australian government said in a statement.
Australia’s government said the agreement will:
- Strengthen Australia’s national security and contribute to regional stability in response to unprecedented strategic challenges.
- Build a future made in Australia, by Australians, with record investments in defence, skills, jobs and infrastructure.
- Deliver a superior capability after a decade of inaction and mismanagement.
Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have agreed to a phased approach that delivers on the commitments of the Albanese Government and provides significant, long-term strategic benefits for all three countries.
For Australia, the three key elements are:
- Increased visits of US submarines commencing in 2023 and UK submarines from 2026, and, beginning in 2027, rotations of UK and US submarines to Australia – this will be key to Australian jobs, infrastructure, technology and our ability to be sovereign ready.
- From as early as the 2030s, delivery of three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia – ensuring there is no capability gap.
Australia and the UK will deliver SSN-AUKUS, a new conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarine, based on a UK design, incorporating cutting edge Australian, UK and US technologies. The UK will deliver its own first SSN-AUKUS in the late 2030s, with the first SSN-AUKUS built in Australia delivered in the early 2040s.
“We expect the phased approach will result in $6 billion invested in Australia’s industrial capability and workforce over the next four years, creating around 20,000 direct jobs over the next 30 years,” Australia’s government said. “This whole of nation effort also presents a whole of nation opportunity; for new jobs, new industries, and new expertise in science, technology, and cyber. Businesses right across the country in every state and territory will have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from these opportunities over decades. Over the next four years, this will see $2 billion in expected investment into South Australia, and a further $1 billion in Western Australia.”
This commitment from the Australian Government will require funding for the phased approach to amount to around 0.15 per cent of GDP per year, averaged over the life of the program.
“Our plan elevates Australia’s industrial capacity to produce and sustain advanced SSNs, alongside our AUKUS partners,” the government said. “Importantly, the SSNs will be an Australian sovereign capability, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy and sustained by Australians in Australian shipyards. Australia has a proud record of leadership in the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. Australia and our AUKUS partners are committed to setting the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard for Australia’s acquisition of SSNs, in continued close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These enhanced defence capabilities will make Australia and our partners better able to deter conflict, and help ensure stability and strategic balance are maintained in the Indo-Pacific. Together with our AUKUS partners, the Albanese Government will deliver the Optimal Pathway, providing a superior and sovereign capability, generations of jobs and a record level of investment which will keep Australians safe.”