The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, based on the UK’s submarine design, UK Government revealed.
In September 2021 the UK, Australia and the United States of America announced an historic, trilateral endeavour to support Australia to acquire a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine or ‘SSN’ – a partnership known as AUKUS.
Following an 18-month scoping period to establish the optimal pathway to Australia acquiring this capability, a model has been chosen based on the UK’s world-leading design and incorporating cutting-edge US submarine technology.
Australia and the UK will both build new submarines to this design, known as ‘SSN-AUKUS’, with construction of the UK’s submarines taking place principally in Barrow-in-Furness. Australia will work over the next decade to build up its submarine industrial base, and will build its submarines in South Australia with some components manufactured in the UK.
The first UK submarines built to 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 AUKUS partnership, and the submarines we are building in British shipyards, are a tangible demonstration of our commitment to global security. This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated.
The Prime Minister also announced that an additional £5 billion will be provided to the MoD over the next two years, which will be spent in a number of areas including modernising the UK’s nuclear enterprise and funding the next phase of the AUKUS submarine programme.
This will be followed by sustained funding over the next decade to support the SSN-AUKUS programme and will build on the £2bn invested last year in our Dreadnought-class submarine programme.
Construction will start on the UK’s SNN-AUKUS submarines towards the end of this decade. Decisions about how many submarines the UK requires will be made in the coming years, based on the strategic threat picture at the time.
The UK’s SSN-AUKUS submarines will be built by BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. Once they are operational, the UK’s new SSN-AUKUS submarines will replace our current Astute-Class submarines.
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 – at British and American submarine industrial bases, by the end of this year. This process will accelerate the training of Australian personnel required for them to operate a submarine fleet.
US submarines will also increase port visits to Australia from this year 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.
As part of the agreement, to fulfil Australia’s need for a nuclear-powered submarine until the SSN-AUKUS is operational, the US intends to sell Australia a number of Virginia-Class submarines in the 2030s.
The approach we have taken on the AUKUS programme has included extensive engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with all countries committed to developing an approach which protects classified information and strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.