Australia is getting nuclear submarines from the US and UK

Miguel Ortiz
Mar 14, 2023 9:58 AM PDT
2 minute read
nuclear submarines


On March 13, 2023, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden announced a…

On March 13, 2023, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden announced a joint plan to equip Australia with conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs). The procurement plan is part of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) security partnership that commits the allied nations to each others security in the region. The endstate of the procurement plan is a new submarine fittingly designated the SSN-AUKUS.

Prime Minister Albanese, President Biden, and Prime Minister Sunak during the AUKUS meeting in San Diego (DOD)

The historic announcement represented "the biggest single investment in Australia's defense capability in all of [Australian] history," Prime Minister Albanese said at the San Diego meeting. Beginning in 2023, Australian military and civilian personnel will receive access to both US and UK submarine industrial to acquire the knowledge necessary for Australia to field a force of its own nuclear submarines. Also in 2023, US SSNs will increase for visits to Australia. UK subs will increase their port visits beginning in 2026.

Virginia-class submarine USS Mississippi at HMAS Stirling Naval Base, Australia (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Another phase in the submarine plan, US and UK SSNs will establish a rotational presence in Western Australia as early as 2027. Their presence will be a stopgap until Australia can sail its own SSNs and serve to deter aggression in the region. "Forging this new partnership, we're showing again how democracies can deliver our own security and prosperity," President Biden said at the meeting. "And, not just for us, but for the entire world."

The Virginia class is America's newest submarine model (DOD)

A major milestone in the submarine plan will be the sale of three US-made Virginia-class SSNs to Australia in the 2030s. The sale is subject to Congressional approval, but provides provisions for the sale of two additional subs if Australia desires. Following the deployment of US and UK SSNs to Australia, these Virginia-class SSNs sailing under the Australian flag will allow the Australian Navy to retire its diesel-electric submarine with no gap in capability.

The SSN-AUKUS will use UK design and US technology (DOD)

The final phase of the submarine plan is for Australia to build and field its own nuclear-powered submarine, the SSN-AUKUS. Using UK submarine design and US technology, the SSN-AUKUS is slated to be the future attack submarine for both Australia and the UK. The UK Royal Navy expects to have its first SSN-AUKUS in the late 2030s while Australia's is projected for the early 2040s.


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