Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program with the United States and Britain will cost up to USD 245 billion over the next three decades, a defense official said on Tuesday. The project would become the country’s biggest single defense program in history.
On Tuesday U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines, a major step to counter China’s naval build-up in the Indo-Pacific.
Today, @POTUS, @AlboMP, and @RishiSunak announced steps to carry forward the Australia – U.K. – U.S. Partnership.
Developing Australia’s conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine capacity and our own will enhance stability in the Indo-Pacific. pic.twitter.com/nZzWt5SbQq
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 13, 2023
A purely Australian capability
Albanese said the program would start with a USD 4 billion investment over the next four years to expand a major submarine base and the country’s submarine shipyards, as well as train skilled workers.
“This will be an Australian sovereign capability – built by Australians, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy, and sustained by Australian workers in Australian shipyards,” Albanese said in San Diego, California.
“The scale, complexity, and economic significance of the investment is akin to the creation of the Australian automotive industry in the post-war period,” he added.
This will be a whole of nation effort. It will create opportunities that will shape and strengthen and grow Australia’s economy for decades.
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) March 13, 2023
Australia will also provide approximately USD 2 billion to expand shipbuilding capacity in the U.S. and Britain, with the bulk of the money destined to speed up the production of U.S. Virginia-class submarines.
New fleet of nuclear submarines for Australia
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed that Australia is briefing its neighboring Asian nations about its intention to build nuclear submarines…
The first SSN-AUKUS Australian-built submarines will be delivered in 2042, with additional ones built every three years until the fleet reaches eight.
The total cost of the submarine program is estimated to be USD 178 billion to USD 245 billion by 2055 or roughly 0.15 percent of gross domestic product per year, a defense official told Reuters.
The price tag involves the cost of building submarines as well as associated infrastructure and training creating thousands of jobs over three decades.
Alongside Australia and the United Kingdom, we're developing a new state-of-the-art submarine to ensure the Indo-Pacific stays open and secure.
We'll bring together our militaries, scientists, engineers, and shipbuilders – and create good-paying jobs while doing it.
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 14, 2023
“Australia can’t afford not to do this … it will be worth every cent when it comes to our national security, our national economy,” Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters.
Historic ties revived
As Australia’s historical ties with Britain and the United States are being revived, the countries will host each other’s military marine vessels more frequently.
U.S. nuclear-powered submarines will visit Western Australia more frequently this year, with British submarines making port visits starting in 2026.
From 2027 the Perth base, HMAS Stirling, will be host to a rotational presence of British and U.S. nuclear-powered submarines to build Australia’s experience.