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.”
The Deal seems very heavily weighted in the US’s favour. We buy 3 subs ( presumably the 3 oldest) pay to bring the up to scratch, invest 3 Billion in US industry and possibly buy 2 more (presumably the oldest and pay to have then bought up to scratch) if the British design is delayed for some reason ( like the U.S. dragging its heels on tech transfers) Mean while we struggle to man the U.S. subs as well as paying to update all our infrastructure to accommodate U.S. boats .. sounds like a great deal. I wonder they didn’t try to sell us some prime Real Estate in the Louisiana Swamp Land.
I have similar thoughts. I’ll wait for today’s euphoria to subside before reminding people of several points, possibly the most important being that the U.S. has not actually made a decision to sell submarines – that is a decision for Congress to approve. There is the very real possibility that a future Congress – particularly if it is led by isolationist Republicans – will think differently.
It seems to me it would have been far cheaper and quicker just to build the French SSNs.
Their size and crew requirements are far more suitable for the RANs requirements as well.
The nuclear version of the Barracuda should certainly have been studied in far more detail than it was.
I agree, the Suffren Class are much more in line with size, Crewing and such, plus it uses LEU, which would have placated the Greens, to some extent and put an end to CCP propaganda about the R.A.N. Acquiring Nuclear Weapons. The question would be, would the French want to do business with us and what happens to the AUKUS deal because buying French would certainly upset the Yanks and Poms.
I’m not sure that a Suffren purchase would upset the U.S. because the conventional version (the late Attack class) came with U.S. weapons and combat system. I can’t imagine that the French would be concerned at upsetting the British.
I’ve seen nothing yet to convince me that the RAN will ever do anything more provide rotational crewing for US and UK subs based at upgraded facilities at HMAS Stirling.
By the time the 2030’s roll around how many changes of Presidents, Prime Ministers, Defence Ministers will have occurred?
How many more Defence Reviews and White Papers?
I have a sneaking suspicion that you are correct.
20,000 jobs in Australia for 3 to 5 second hand Virginia class and a production of UK designed AUKUS subs from 2040. What are these guys going to do until then? Has that been defined? Parts for the new Virginia class in an F35 kind if a deal?
I know! It seems completely ridiculous. We have no idea what Australia has promised or where the initial $3 billion is going.