The second group of Royal Australian Navy sailors have graduated from the U.S. Navy’s nuclear power school in Charleston, S.C., the service announced this week.
“The RAN Officers will follow the July graduates for further training in an operating nuclear propulsion plant,” reads a statement from the Navy.
”The officers will then complete a Submarine Officer Basic Course before assignment to an American Virginia-class SSN to continue their training and qualifications with on-board experience.”
The three sailors are part of a growing group of Australian sailors that will eventually operate Virginia-class nuclear attack boats in tandem with U.S. crews in Australia and then provide the core group for the RAN’s own nuclear submarine fleet.
“I could not be more proud of all of the Royal Australian Navy officers and sailors who have attended the U.S. Nuclear Power School,” said the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Adm. Mark Hammond in a statement.
“It’s exciting to see our second cohort graduate from the program. These exceptional members of our Navy are charting the course for our future, receiving incredible training for our future submarine capability.”
The training for the RAN sailors is part of the ongoing cooperative AUKUS agreement between the U.S., U.K. and Australia that will establish a nuclear submarine force for Australia. The program is on track to have 15 RAN officers in the nuclear training pipeline by December.
The first set of officers are set to join U.S. crews in Hawaii before getting folded into different roles in the Australian nuclear submarine enterprise, Hammond said in July.
The joint Australian and U.S. crews operate with American Virginias from a base in western Australia.
“Once we feel that Australia is ready to do that – and we think it could be as early as 2027 – we’ll establish a rotational force of U.S. and U.K. submarines in Australia, the construct we’re calling Submarine Rotational Forces West,” or SURF-West, a White House official told USNI News in July.
In the short term, U.S. and U.K. submarines will start to make more port calls in Australia and Aussie shipyard workers will start training in the U.S. In the 2030s, the RAN will buy three to five U.S. Virginia-class submarines ahead of operating their own domestic nuclear attack boats.
Earlier this month, BAE Systems in the U.K. won $4.95 billion in contracts to build the first of a new class of nuclear attack boats for the U.K. Royal Navy and eventually the RAN.