SAN DIEGO, USA - Australia will operate a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines based on a British design as both countries modernise their navies, it has been announced.
The Aukus deal – involving the UK, the US and Australia– will see the new boats in operation in the late 2030s following a construction phase which will create thousands of jobs in the United Kingdom (UK).
Announcing the deal alongside US president Joe Biden and Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese, Rishi Sunak said the partnership would deliver “one of the most advanced” submarines “the world has ever known”, creating thousands of jobs in British shipyards.
The new SSN-Aukus submarines will be in operation for the Royal Navy by the late 2030s under the plan, and will also give Australia its first nuclear-powered capability.
The UK’s submarines will mainly be built by BAE Systems at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and Rolls-Royce. They will replace the Royal Navy’s Astute-class boats when they enter into operation. The plan could see the number of UK hunter-killer subs double.
Australia’s boats will be built in South Australia, using some components manufactured in the UK, and will be in service in the early 2040s.
The three leaders met in San Diego to announce the next stage of the Aukus programme.
Mr Sunak said it was “the most significant multilateral defence partnership in generations”.
As part of the agreement, Australia will buy US Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s as a stop-gap measure until the new vessels are operational. The new submarines will also incorporate US technology.
The Aukus partnership was announced in 2021 as Australia sought to respond to China’s assertive actions in the Pacific.
The latest stage comes as the UK publishes its updated integrated review of foreign and security policy, which highlights China’s “more aggressive stance”.
The deal caused a diplomatic rift with France, which had expected to supply diesel-powered submarines to the Canberra government.
The Aukus programme will result in closer collaboration between the three nations.
Beginning in 2023, Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with the US Navy and Royal Navy, and in the two countries’ industrial bases to accelerate the training of Australian personnel.
The US plans to increase port visits by nuclear-powered submarines to Australia this year, with the United Kingdom increasing visits in 2026.
From 2027, UK and US boats could be deployed on “forward rotation” to Australia to help develop training and expertise.