Defence minister underscores AUKUS submarine’s impact on Australian operations and defence industry

USS Mississipi visit to FBW
Personnel at the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Base West, HMAS Stirling, Western Australia await the arrival of the US Navy Virginia-class SSN USS Mississippi in November 2022. The SSN-AUKUS submarine programme will deliver significant operational and industrial benefits for Australia, according to Australian defence ministers. (Credit: Royal Australian Navy)

The nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) to be built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the Australia/UK/US AUKUS trilateral agreement will deliver significant benefit to Australian defence operations and defence industrial capability, a senior Australian defence minister has reiterated.

The SSN-AUKUS submarine programme will be central to the Australian Defence Force’s shift towards a focused force concept, set out in the Australian government’s April 2023 Defence Strategic Review (DSR), that will require the RAN to deliver greater lethality, Pat Conroy MP – Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for International Development and the Pacific – told the Australian Industry and Defence Network’s National Annual Gala Dinner on 14 June, in a speech on ‘Defence Industry in a post-DSR World’.

Amongst the DSR’s critical recommendations is a requirement for a focused force, bringing increased emphasis on lethality, long-range strike, and littoral manoeuvre. “We can no longer afford the luxury of a balanced force; we must invest in a focused force,” said Conroy.

DSR’s critical recommendations generated a list of immediate capability priorities, one of which is SSN-AUKUS, Conroy explained. Initially, AUD19 billion will be applied to these priorities.

As regards SSN-AUKUS, Minister Conroy referred to the programme as “an epoch-shaping decision to produce nuclear-propelled submarines in this country”. He noted that the programme will deliver 20,000 jobs in Australia’s economy, and that the government is investing AUD3 billion in the short term and AUD30 billion over the life of the programme.

Alongside developing submarine-building skills within Australia’s workforce in companies across the defence supply chain, including small and medium enterprises, Conroy noted that such investment and skills development would enable Australian industry to contribute to the UK and US submarine programmes, including by adding capacity. “I’ve just returned from the United States and I visited Electric Boat in Connecticut, and they are very keen to get Australian companies into their supply chain,” said Conroy. “They see real opportunities for Australian industry to be part of [the] solution for their submarines as well.”

The UK is part of the SSN-AUKUS programme, using the design as the blueprint for its own next-generation SSN. The US is continuing to build Virginia-class SSNs, and will supply between three and five Virginia submarines to Australia as an interim step in establishing Australia’s SSN capability, prior to the arrival of the SSN-AUKUS boats.

by Dr. Lee Willett