Defence SA Chief Executive joins SA Premier on US visit to strengthen AUKUS ties

Chief Executive of Defence SA Matt Opie accompanied South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas on a recent trip to the US.

With the trilateral AUKUS partnership at the forefront of both US and Australian defence industry capability planning, the visit looked to strengthen ties between the US and South Australia.

As the home of the SSN-AUKUS build at the Osborne Naval Shipyard, key discussions with US counterparts provided deeper insights into the workforce and skills required for South Australia to deliver the SSN-AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines, while affirming the many opportunities that exist through the AUKUS supply chain.

Mr Opie said that the meetings with industry, academia and Government paved the way to closer collaboration and shared learnings.

“South Australia is central to the national endeavour to deliver nuclear-powered submarines for our Defence Force,” he said.

“The many positive interactions with government, industry and academia affirmed the fact that the US sees Australia as an equal partner and is invested in seeing South Australia succeed.”

In Annapolis, Maryland, the Premier signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Governor of the State of Maryland Wes Moore to enhance skills capability and workforce development for the AUKUS program.

As national defence industry leaders in their respective countries, South Australia and Maryland share a common interest in defence, space and cyber. The MoU will provide South Australian Government and local businesses with greater access to expertise in the US state.

In Virginia, a formalised agreement between the largest shipbuilder in the US and employer of more than 20,000 people, HII and the South Australian Government will enable local suppliers to participate in the conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarine supply chain in the US.

During the signing, the South Australian delegation took part in a tour of HII’s 138-year-old Newport News Shipbuilding shipyard – one of only two shipyards building nuclear-powered submarines in the US.

With a workforce where more than 1,000 employees have in excess of 40 years’ experience building nuclear-powered submarines, Mr Opie commented that the importance of building a robust workforce is evident, as well as the unique challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for South Australia.

“The tour underpinned the current and projected workforce demands for South Australia’s defence industry and the types of jobs and skills required to support our industry pipeline,” he said.

The AUKUS submarine program aims to create around 20,000 jobs nation-wide over the next two decades. In South Australia at its peak an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 direct jobs are expected to support the AUKUS submarine build.

Other notable engagements in Washington included a meeting with His Excellency The Hon Dr Kevin Rudd AC, Ambassador of Australia to the United States, and a meeting with key representatives of the Senate, the US Armed Services Centre, Washington State Department and a think tank to discuss AUKUS and ongoing skills development efforts.

“The US Government is invested in strengthening the AUKUS trilateral partnership and our engagement with key stakeholders demonstrated their ongoing commitment to Australia,” reflected Mr Opie.

With Australia set to procure three Virginia class submarines from the early 2030s, the visit also included a shipyard tour by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut to witness a soon-to-be-launched Virginia Class nuclear-powered submarine.

A meeting at Hampton Roads Alliance was also held, to discuss the opportunities for AUKUS between South Australia and companies in Virginia.

“Learning more about the scale of operations, the construction methods used and watching a team of thousands work was truly inspiring,” added Mr Opie. “The future of