In September 2021, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced AUKUS – a new security partnership to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is secure and stable.
When it was first announced, the AUKUS partnership committed to supporting Australia in acquiring conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs). The three nations have now announced the optimal pathway to achieve this critical capability.
The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, based on the UK’s nuclear-powered submarine design and incorporating cutting-edge US submarine technology.
Australia and UK will both build new submarines to this design, known as SSN-AUKUS, with the construction of the UK’s submarines taking place principally in Barrow-in-Furness. Australia will work over the next decade to build up its submarines in South Australia, with some components manufactured in the UK.
The first UK submarines built using this design will be delivered in the late 2030s to replace the current Astute-Class vessels. And the first Australian submarines will follow in the early 2040s.
The SSN-AUKUS submarines will be the largest, most advanced, and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy, combining world-leading sensors, design, and weaponry in one vessel.
“The AUKUS partnership and the submarines we are building in British shipyards are a tangible demonstration of our commitment to global security,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and a resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. And I am hugely pleased that the plans we have announced today will see pioneering British design expertise protect our people and our allies for generations to come.”
To deliver the new submarines by the earliest possible date, Royal Australian Navy personnel will be embedded in the Royal Navy and US Navy, and – subject to necessary arrangements. This process will accelerate the training of Australian personnel required for them to operate a submarine fleet.
From this year, US submarines will also increase port visits to Australia, with the UK increasing visits from 2026. British and American SSNs will make longer-term deployments to Australia from as early as 2027 to accelerate the development of Australia’s workforce, infrastructure, and regulatory system.