The UK government has committed nearly £4 billion ($4.9 billion) to the next phase of the tri-national AUKUS program with Australia and the United States to develop a new nuclear-powered submarine. This month, BAE Systems, Babcock Marine, and Rolls-Royce were awarded contracts with that combined total sum.
It was in March that the three countries, and close allies, announced details of the AUKUS pact, which will provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines by the late 2030s. The future boats will incorporate Australian, British, and U.S. technologies. The tri-national pact aims to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Beijing has already strongly criticized the three countries over the deal.
New Class of Submarines
The first SSN-AUKUS boats will be built at BAE’s Barrow-in-Furness shipyard in northwest England, and the new subs will eventually serve as a replacement for the Royal Navy’s Astute-class attack submarines beginning in the late 2030s.
Barrow-in-Furniss is currently building the final two of seven Astute-class submarines; while it has also begun construction on three of what will be a fleet of four Dreadnought-class nuclear missile-equipped subs, which will replace the current Vanguard-class of ballistic missile boats and will serve as part of the Royal Navy’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent force.
More Than Just Submarines
The new contract with BAE Systems will also include a significant infrastructure investment at the Barrow shipyard, as well as investment in the supply chain and recruitment of more than 5,000 workers. The company has already been working on design options to replace the Astute-class since at least 2018, Defense News reported.
BAE Systems announced that the funding will pay for the development work to 2028, with manufacturing set to begin towards the end of this decade.
“We’re incredibly proud of our role in the delivery of this vitally important, tri-nation submarine programme,” BAE Systems chief executive Charles Woodburn told the BBC.
Both the UK’s Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy will employ the future SSN-AUKUS submarines. The Australian-built boats will follow the first deliveries to the British, with the first platforms now scheduled for handover in the 2040s.
“This multi-billion-pound investment in the AUKUS submarine programme will help deliver the long-term hunter-killer submarine capabilities the UK needs to maintain our strategic advantage and secure our leading place in a contested global order,” UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said at the Conservative party conference in Manchester last week.
Australia is also set to purchase up to five Virginia-class submarines from the United States, with deliveries set to begin in the 2030s. That will allow Australia to begin training with its first nuclear-powered boats ahead of the delivery of the SSN-AUKUS.
Could Trump Deep Six the Deal?
Though it does seem that the three partner nations are now ready to move “full steam ahead” with the AUKUS program, there has been speculation the project could be scuttled if former President Donald Trump returns to the White House.
Trump had previously threatened to abandon the deal, which has been strongly supported by the Biden Administration.
This month, reports have circulated that the former president may have also discussed sensitive information about the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines with Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt after leaving the White House. Trump allegedly discussed the number of warheads the submarines carry and how close they can get to Russian submarines without being detected.
The former president has denied the allegations.
Source : 19fortyfive.com