Australia selects BAE Systems and ASC to build sovereign nuclear powered submarines

Australia said Thursday it would spend billions on docks, shipyards and factories at home and in Britain for nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS security pact, and named Britain's BAE Systems to help build the boats.

Australia selects BAE Systems and ASC to build sovereign nuclear powered submarines

The Australian Government has selected BAE Systems and ASC Pty Ltd to build Australia's new fleet of nuclear powered submarines in the latest significant development in the AUKUS trilateral security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, and UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced the news in Australia, marking the next step in the pathway for Australia to build and operate its own nuclear powered submarines.

Under the AUKUS agreement, Australia and the UK will operate a common submarine of the future, incorporating technology from all three nations, based on the UK’s next generation design which BAE Systems is leading.

BAE Systems and ASC Pty Ltd will now bring together their complementary skills, expertise and capabilities under a collaborative arrangement in Australia, ultimately leading to the establishment of a long-term, incorporated Joint Venture.

Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems Chief Executive, said:

"We’re extremely proud of our role in the delivery of this vitally important, tri-nation submarine programme. Our selection as a partner in Australia, alongside ASC, recognises our role as the UK’s long-term submarine design and build partner and as a key player in Australia’s maritime enterprise and wider defence landscape. Drawing on decades of experience in the UK and Australia, we look forward to working with ASC to develop an enduring, sovereign nuclear-powered submarine building capability for Australia. We’re already making good progress on the design and development of the next generation submarine in the UK where we have more than 1,000 people working on the SSN-AUKUS programme and major infrastructure investment underway. This latest step will ensure an integral connection between the UK design and the build strategy development in Australia as we work together to deliver next generation military capability as well as considerable social and economic value to all three nations."

SSN-AUKUS will be the largest, most powerful and advanced attack submarines the Royal Navy has ever operated and will start to replace the Astute class, which BAE Systems is building at its site in Barrow-in-Furness in the North West of England, from the late 2030s. Australia expects to deliver its first SSN-AUKUS submarine in the early 2040s.

The UK Ministry of Defence awarded BAE Systems almost £4 billion for the next phase of the SSN-AUKUS programme in October. The funding covers development work through to 2028, enabling BAE Systems to progress the detailed design phase of the programme and procure long-lead items.  The award is also funding significant infrastructure investment in Barrow, which will see the site's facilities double in size from 80,000 to 160,000 m2 by the late 2030s, as part of a multi-billion pound programme, and continued recruitment to support the national endeavour.

BAE Systems has already increased its UK submarines workforce to 13,500 with plans to grow to around 17,000 at its peak to support SSN-AUKUS in the UK, as well as the Astute and Dreadnought programmes, providing a significant employment boost for the region.

BAE Systems is the UK’s long-term submarine build partner and brings critical nuclear-powered submarine building experience and intellectual property. The involvement of BAE Systems in Australia ensures an integral connection between the SSN-AUKUS design led by BAE Systems in the UK and the development and maturation of the Australian build strategy.

BAE Systems has already delivered five of seven Astute class submarines to the Royal Navy in the UK, with the remaining two boats at advanced stages of construction at its shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness. The Company is also designing and building the UK's next-generation nuclear deterrent submarines, Dreadnought, with construction underway on the first three of four new boats.

Rolls-Royce welcomed the announcement that the Australian Government would be investing in its ongoing AUKUS preparations. 

To meet the growth in demand from the Royal Navy, which includes AUKUS delivery commitments, work is already underway to double the size of the Rolls-Royce Submarines site in Raynesway, Derby.

Now jointly funded by UK MOD and the Australian Department of Defence, the expansion work announced last summer will create over 1,000 new jobs in Derby across a range of disciplines, including manufacturing and engineering. It will also see new manufacturing and office facilities being built on recently acquired land surrounding the existing Raynesway site.

In March 2023 it was confirmed that Rolls-Royce Submarines would provide all the nuclear reactor plants that will power new attack submarines as part of the tri-lateral agreement between Australia, the UK and US.