Australia sets up delivery agency for new submarine

Management and oversight of the delivery of Australia’s new SSN capability, to be procured under the SSN-AUKUS programme, will be undertaken by the Australian Submarine Agency.

Australia has established a new agency to manage and oversee delivery of its new nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) capability.

The Australian Submarine Agency (ASA) stood up formally on 1 July 2023. The agency will lead in the delivery of Australia’s first SSN, to be procured for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the SSN-AUKUS programme within the wider Australia/UK/US AUKUS strategic partnership.

“The acquisition of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines represents the single biggest investment in our defence capability in our history. Today, we take the next step towards delivering that capability with the establishment of the [ASA],” the Hon Richard Marles MP, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, said in a statement released on social media on 1 July.

Defence Minister Marles announced that the RAN’s Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead would be the ASA’s first Director-General. Previously, Vice Adm Mead led Australia’s Nuclear-Powered Submarine Task Force.

In a separate statement, Australia’s Department of Defence (DoD) said “The ASA will be responsible and accountable for the management and oversight of the [SSN] program.”

The ASA reports to the Minister for Defence. It is headquartered in Canberra, but will have personnel located across Australia and overseas in the UK and the US. Its 350-strong staff is expected to almost double over the next year, the DoD statement noted.

In the DoD statement, Defence Minister Marles said “The ASA will be critical in delivering a game-changing capability for the defence of Australia and security of our region.”

In its Defence Strategic Review, published in April, Australia committed to establishing the ASA.

While the SSN-AUKUS programme – which is building new boats for both the RAN and the UK Royal Navy – will begin delivering submarines from the late 2030s, Australia will establish an interim SSN capability through the US Navy’s provision of three – and possibly up to five – Virginia-class boats from the early 2030s.

by Dr. Lee Willett