Royal Australian Navy Enters New Era

By Claire Galliford and Lieutenant Sarah Rohweder

Navy – and the Australian Defence Force – is about to undergo a major shift in military technology, in which it will enter a new era of sub-surface capabilities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia will acquire a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, supported under an enhanced trilateral security partnership with the United Kingdom and the United States – AUKUS.

“AUKUS will build on the deep history of cooperation between our nations,” Mr Morrison said.

“It will be part of a greater positive engagement by like-minded partners in the region to contribute to stability, and to avoid the rise of any hegemonic power that could compromise regional stability and resilience.

“Through AUKUS, our three nations will promote deeper information and technology sharing, fostering deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains.”

Australia’s acquisition of a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines is the first major initiative under this partnership.

As our Defence leaders have previously said, the Indo-Pacific – Australia’s region – is now the epicentre of strategic competition.

Australia is entering a new era, which requires more advanced capabilities that will allow us to protect the nation and its interests, and that of our regional partners.

Nuclear-powered submarines also have the capacity to carry more advanced, and a greater number of weapons.

However, Australia does not and will not seek nuclear weapons.

Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines will mean the government will no longer proceed with the Attack-class Submarine Program.

Mr Morrison also announced that South Australia would remain the home of full-cycle dockings for the Collins-class submarines.

Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said the announcement was the single most consequential decision made in relation to the navy in his lifetime.

He acknowledged the hard work of those who have contributed to the Attack-class program to date, and said affected personnel could be assured they would still have an important role to play in future capabilities.

“Now, you might ask ‘what does this mean for me?’ ” Vice Admiral Noonan said in a video address to Navy answered that question.

This article was published by the Australian Department of Defence on September 17, 2021.

And here is the official announcement by the Australian Department of Defence:

Australian, UK and US partnership

On 16 September 2021, the Prime Minister of Australia, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States of America, announced an enhanced trilateral security partnership between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS).

AUKUS is a momentous partnership in Australia’s history that will significantly deepen our three countries’ cooperation on a range of security and defence capabilities for decades to come.

This partnership is pivotal for Australia to become a more capable power in the 21st century, in line with our liberal democratic values, and to deepen our already steadfast defence and security collaborations.

Nuclear-powered submarines

The first major initiative under AUKUS is Australia’s acquisition of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. The Australian Government intends to build these submarines in Adelaide.

This announcement means the Australian Government will no longer be proceeding with the Attack Class Submarine Program.

Australia, the UK and the US have committed to a comprehensive program of work over the next 18 months that will bring this capability into service. The optimal pathway to achieve this is through a significant increase in Australia-UK-US defence collaboration.

This period will be used to examine the full suite of requirements that underpin nuclear stewardship, with a specific focus on safety, design, construction, operation, maintenance, disposal, regulation, training, environmental protection, installations and infrastructure, basing, workforce and force structure.

The Government has established a Nuclear-Powered Submarine Task Force led by VADM Jonathan Mead AO to facilitate Australia’s role in AUKUS.

Nuclear-powered submarines have superior characteristics of stealth, speed, manoeuvrability, survivability, and almost limitless endurance, when compared to conventional submarines. They can deploy unmanned underwater vehicles and can also carry more advanced and a greater number of weapons. These abilities allow nuclear-powered submarines to operate in contested areas with a lower risk of detection.

These advantages mean that the transition to nuclear-powered submarines represents a substantial capability leap for the Royal Australian Navy.

The Government is committed to maximising Australian industry participation in this program. Opportunities for Australian industry participation range from capability design to complex project management, to construction and sustainment activities.