SSN-AUKUS fleet to be designed and built by BAE and ASC Pty Ltd

By Nick Wilson / March 22, 2024 at 10:50 AM

Contractors BAE Systems and ASC Pty Ltd have been selected to build the future class of SSN-AUKUS submarines under the trilateral security agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, according to a March 21 Pentagon announcement.

The two shipbuilders will lead industry efforts to design and build this future nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet, which is slated to begin delivering to Australia in the early 2040s. ASC Pty Ltd, an Australian company, will also serve as Australia’s “submarine sustainment partner,” according to the notice.

“The formation of these strategic partnerships with industry is a significant milestone in the AUKUS endeavor,” the announcement states. “It is a demonstration of our trilateral industry supporting the Optimal Pathway becoming a reality and will underpin Australia’s role as a capable security partner and responsible steward of a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability for decades to come.”

SSN-AUKUS will incorporate technology from all three nations with a design based on the U.K.’s next-generation submarine, currently under development with BAE. The vessels, which will also be fielded and operated by the U.K., “will be equipped for intelligence, surveillance, undersea warfare and strike missions, and will provide maximum interoperability among AUKUS partners,” the notice states.

In the interim, the U.S. plans to sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the early 2030s, with the sale of used vessels expected in FY-32 and FY-35, followed by a newly constructed boat in FY-38.

With Virginia production rates falling below the U.S. Defense Department’s desired rate of two vessels per year, the Pentagon aims to invest over $11 billion in the domestic industrial base over the next five years.

Australia is also making substantial investments in its own industrial base, committing to spend at least $18 billion Australia dollars -- equivalent to about $11.7 billion in U.S. dollars -- on infrastructure upgrades over the next decade, according to the notice. Some of this funding will help establish nuclear-powered submarine construction facilities at Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide.

The U.K. plans to invest £3 billion -- about US$3.8 billion -- in its Defence Nuclear Enterprise, while contractor Rolls-Royce intends to double the size of its U.K.-based industrial site where all of Australia’s nuclear reactors will be built, the notice adds.

“The Optimal Pathway was always designed to create a stronger, more resilient trilateral submarine industrial base, supporting submarine production and maintenance in all three countries,” the notice states. “The announcements today are a testament to that -- the build of SSN-AUKUS will increase opportunities for industrial base collaboration, strengthen our collective industrial base capacity, and generate economic growth in defense and national security sectors in all three countries.”