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14 Mar 2023

British-led design chosen for AUKUS submarine project

British-led design chosen for AUKUS submarine project
Crown Copyright 2023
Ministry of Defence Press Release
  • A new fleet of submarines will be built by the UK and Australia based on the UK’s nuclear-powered submarine design.
  • UK’s submarines will be in operation by the late 2030s following massive, trilateral building project which will create thousands of jobs in the UK.
  • Next stage of AUKUS submarine project announced by the Prime Minister, Australian Prime Minister Albanese and US President Biden in San Diego.

The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, based on the UK’s world-leading submarine design, the Prime Minister has announced today alongside the leaders of Australia and the United States.

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 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.

This massive multilateral undertaking will create thousands of jobs in the UK in the decades ahead, building on more than 60 years of British expertise designing, building and operating nuclear-powered submarines. As the home of British submarine building, most of these jobs will be concentrated in Barrow-in-Furness with further roles created elsewhere along the supply chain, including in Derby.

Choosing an interoperable submarine design will allow the Royal Navy, with its Australian and US counterparts to work together to meet shared threats and deter aggression. This includes in the Indo-Pacific where the refresh of the UK’s Integrated Review, published today, has confirmed the importance of increased engagement in this febrile region. The strategy confirms the Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’ as a permanent pillar of the UK’s international policy.

The UK’s SSN-AUKUS submarines will also help us maintain our commitment to defending the Euro-Atlantic region, adding to the work we do through NATO as the alliance’s largest European contributor.

The Prime Minister said:

“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.

“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.”

The Prime Minister announced today (Monday) 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.

The Defence Secretary said:

“This is a significant step forward for our three nations as we work together to contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific and across the world.

“Supporting thousands of jobs across the UK, with many in the north-west of England, this endeavour will boost prosperity across our country and showcase the prowess of British industry to our allies and partners.”

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.

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