Australia Chooses UK to Build Its First Nuclear Submarines


Britain is to build a new fleet of nuclear submarines for Australia following the signing of a trilateral pact with the United States in San Diego on Monday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signed the AUKUS deal with U.S. President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and it was then announced that Britain had been chosen to build Australia’s first tailor-made nuclear submarines, which would be delivered in the 2040s.

Under the deal—which will cost the Australian government AU$368 billion (£201 billion)—Canberra would buy three U.S. submarines of the Virginia-class in the early 2030s.

Prior to that, from 2027, Britain and the United States will station their own nuclear submarines in the port of Perth, Western Australia, from where they will patrol the Pacific and Indian Oceans as part of a deterrent to growing Chinese assertiveness and aggression in the region.

Britain has embarked on a programme to build four new Dreadnought-class submarines at BAE Systems’ yard in Barrow-in-Furness in the north of England, which would come into service in the early 2030s.

But the new nuclear-powered submarines which BAE will build for the Australians will be a brand new design, currently known only as SSN-AUKUS.

Epoch Times Photo
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden in San Diego, California, on March 13, 2023. (PA)

Australia says it has chosen the UK’s world-leading design, powered by Rolls-Royce engines, but the subs will incorporate “cutting-edge U.S. submarine technology.”

Construction of the first submarines will take place initially in Barrow but it is envisaged that eventually Australia will be able to build its own submarines in Adelaide, South Australia, using components manufactured in the UK.

Not Nuclear-Armed

Unlike the Dreadnought-class, the SSN-AUKUS submarines will not be carrying nuclear missiles and Australia will not therefore have its own independent nuclear deterrent.

The first of the SSN-AUKUS submarines will be delivered by BAE to the Royal Navy in the late 2030s—replacing the Astute-Class vessels—and Australia will get its own in the early 2040s.

The new submarines are expected to be smaller than the Dreadnought-class—which weigh 17,000 tonnes and are 500 feet long—and will be more like the Astute-class, which weigh 7,000 tonnes and are 300 feet long.

The British government said the SSN-AUKUS submarines would be “the largest, most advanced, and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy, combining world-leading sensors, design, and weaponry in one vessel.”

Albanese told a press conference at the Point Loma naval base in San Diego—home to the U.S. Pacific fleet and a major submarine hub—the deal represents an “opportunity for jobs, skills, research, and innovation” in both Barrow and Adelaide.

He said, “This will be an Australian-sovereign capability built by Australians, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy, and sustained by Australian workers in Australian shipyards with construction to begin this decade.”

“Built by innovation and extraordinary and emerging technologies, these boats will present a unique opportunity for Australian companies to contribute, not only to the construction and sustainment of Australia’s new submarines, but to supply chains in America and in Britain,” added Albanese, who was elected prime minister last year.

Epoch Times Photo
An undated visualisation of what an SSN-AUKUS submarine might look like at sea, issued on March 13, 2023. (BAE)

In May 2022, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang congratulated Albanese and said the stable development of Australia–China relations was in the interest of both sides.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime banned all official contact with the government of Albanese’s predecessor, Scott Morrison, in January 2020 following the decision to ban Huawei from Australia’s 5G network in 2018 over concerns of espionage, as well as Australia’s strong stance on China’s behaviour in the South China Sea.

The wheels had already been put in motion for AUKUS before Albanese took office and he has gone ahead with it, making clear the Australian government still sees the CCP as a major threat.

Indo-Pacific Security

Australia had originally agreed an AU$90 billion (£49 billion) deal with France for nuclear submarines, but Morrison pulled out of the deal in September 2021, infuriating French President Emmanuel Macron.

In June 2022, Albanese agreed a deal to pay AU$830 million (£455 million) in compensation to the French company, Naval Group.

The British government said: “This massive multilateral undertaking will create thousands of jobs in the UK in the decades ahead, building on more than 60 years of British expertise designing, building, and operating nuclear-powered submarines.”

“As the home of British submarine building, most of these jobs will be concentrated in Barrow-in-Furness with further roles created elsewhere along the supply chain, including in Derby,” it added.

Sunak said, “The AUKUS partnership, and the submarines we are building in British shipyards, are a tangible demonstration of our commitment to global security.”

He added: “This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. And I am hugely pleased that the plans we have announced today will see pioneering British design expertise protect our people and our allies for generations to come.”


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