UK announces GBP4 billion AUKUS submarine design contract

An artist’s rendering of the SSN-AUKUS submarine
An artist’s rendering of the SSN-AUKUS submarine, to be built for the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy submarine services. The UK contract award starts the process of detail design and long-lead item procurement. (Credit: Commonwealth of Australia/Department of Defence)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced the award of a GBP4 billion (USD4.9 billion) contract to deliver the detailed design and long-lead items phase of the SSN-AUKUS submarine that is to be built for the UK Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the Australia/UK/US AUKUS strategic partnership.

The contract, announced on 1 October, was awarded to Babcock, BAE Systems, and Rolls-Royce.

The AUKUS strategic partnering agreement was revealed by the three countries in September 2021. One of its first major programmes is the delivery of SSN-AUKUS, which will provide the RAN with a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) capability for the first time, and the RN with the successor to its in-service Astute-class SSNs.

In a statement, the UK MoD said “The contracts … will progress the programme through the design [and] prototyping, and purchase of main long-lead components for the first UK submarines, allowing construction to commence in the coming years and ensure the stability and resilience of our domestic supply chain.”

The statement added that the contract also covers infrastructure developments at the BAE Systems’ submarine-building yard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and the Rolls-Royce nuclear reactor manufacturing site in Raynesway, Derby. These facilities “will be developed and expanded where needed to meet the requirement of the future submarine build programme”, it continued.

The RN boats will be built in Barrow. The RAN boats will be built in Australia, which will work up its submarine industrial base capability over the next decade.

Under the SSN-AUKUS programme, the first replacement RN submarine is scheduled to arrive in service in the late 2030s, with the first new RAN boat to follow in the early 2040s.

From the UK’s perspective, the MoD statement continued, the SSN-AUKUS boats “will be the largest, most advanced, and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the RN, combining world-leading sensors, design, and weaponry in one vessel.”

by Dr. Lee Willett, London