Australian Report on AUKUS Nuclear Powered Submarine Pathway

March 14, 2023 9:59 AM - Updated: March 14, 2023 11:32 AM

The following is the March 13, 2023, Australian Department of Defense report, The AUKUS Nuclear-Powered Submarine Pathway.

From the report

Over the past 18 months, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have worked together to determine the Optimal Pathway for Australia to acquire SSNs. All three AUKUS partners have dedicated significant effort and resources to this work. A Joint Steering Group made up of senior officials from all three countries met 12 times between December 2021 and February 2023. The Joint Steering Group examined the full suite of options for Australia’s SSN acquisition, assessing the opportunities, risks and requirements of each.

Based on the work of the Joint Steering Group, AUKUS partners have identified a phased Pathway that delivers a sovereign Australian SSN capability as early as the early 2030s. The Pathway will see the construction and delivery of SSN-AUKUS as an enduring SSN capability for Australia and the UK – incorporating technology from all three nations, including cutting edge US submarine technologies.

This Pathway includes:

  • Beginning in 2023, Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with the UK Royal Navy, the US Navy and – subject to any necessary arrangements – with UK and US submarine industrial bases.
  • Beginning in 2023 and 2026 respectively, the US and UK will increase SSN port visits to Australia.
  • As early as 2027, UK and US SSNs plan to establish a rotational presence in Western Australia.
  • Pending US Congressional approval, from the early 2030s the US intends to sell Australia three Virginia class submarines, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed. This will ensure there is no capability gap during the retirement of Australia’s existing diesel-electric submarine fleet.

Importantly, the Pathway includes milestones for Australia to establish the capabilities to safely operate and steward SSNs. The UK and the US will use their extensive experience in safely constructing, operating, maintaining and disposing of SSNs to assist Australia in achieving those milestones.

The Pathway will develop Australia’s capacity to achieve the ‘sovereign ready’ milestone to safely and responsibly own, operate, maintain and regulate a sovereign SSN capability. The phases of the Pathway will enhance trilateral undersea presence in the region in the near term, and will build this ‘sovereign ready’ capability over time. Ultimately, the Pathway will provide Australia with the capacity to build and deliver its enduring nuclear-powered submarine capability – the SSN-AUKUS. SSN-AUKUS will be the future submarine for both Australia and the UK, with the technology developed from and integrated into this platform benefitting all AUKUS partners. Australia and the UK will begin to build SSN-AUKUS in their domestic shipyards before the end of this decade. The UK intends to deliver its first SSN-AUKUS as early as the late 2030s. Australia plans to deliver the first Australian-built SSN-AUKUS in the early 2040s.

Download the document here.

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