US and UK Fast-Tracking Nuke-Powered Submarines for Australia to Face China

HMS Victorious was the second of the four ballistic missile submarines to emerge from the Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow, where she was officially 'launched' on 29 September 1993. Based at Clyde Naval Base, HMS Victorious' is continuing the Royal Navy's proud record of over 40 years of uninterrupted nuclear deterrence, as at least one of the four 'bombers' is on patrol at any time. / Photo by Defence Imagery via Flickr

In a bid to accelerate delivery of nuclear submarines for the Australian Navy, the United States and United Kingdom are reportedly ‘pulling out all the stops’ to speed up the massive $90 billion project. Australia now may launch its first of eight nuclear-powered submarines in the early 2030s, at least five years ahead of schedule.

They were originally not expected to join the Australian naval fleet until 2040 at the earliest, but the Pentagon is pushing for a far earlier time frame.

Experts note that Australia’s current Collins Class submarines would need major overhauls to extend their service life beyond 2038, making it vital to get the new nuclear subs in the water as soon as possible.

The acerated timeline comes as fears grow of a stand-off with China over Taiwan, with Australian pledging to support any US response if the situation escalates.

The controversial Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) sub deal saw Australia abandon its contract with France for a fleet of diesel submarines to be delivered by 2035 in favor of US-UK nuke subs. The project has irked the Chinese communist regime. China branded the AUKUS deal as ‘extremely irresponsible” and is now pushing for a nuclear-free treaty for south-east Asia.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said the rhetoric against Australia should be seen as just part of China’s attacks on all the other nations which oppose it and speak up against them. He also hinted the submarines could be built in Australia, despite the current lack of suitable shipyard facilities or nuclear power knowledge.

Work is reportedly already underway on designing local shipyards, but skilled workers need training.

The Daily Mail noted that:

…any move to manufacture them in Australia will require training shipyard workers, new equipment and specialist nuclear experts.

Some experts have predicted that may not be possible within the new shortened timeframe to rush the submarines into service.

However. moving production to Australia may be inevitable as Mr Dutton said the UK and US had limited spare production capacity to build the Australian submarines.

And he said work was already underway with the international partners on designing local shipyards.

Australia has yet to decide if they will be using the US Virginia Class nuclear submarine design or the UK’s similar Astute Class. Both are extremely sophisticated and capable warships.

The Daily Mail quotes Dutton as saying: ‘I think we are advancing at a quicker pace than what we could have imagined even at the time of the announcement.’

Dutton added: ‘There has been no game-playing, no roadblocks, they are pulling out all stops to make this work. It’s a capability that we want to acquire quickly, and we are in those discussions right now.’ ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - - PAULCRESPO.COM

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