The Defence State secures nuclear-powered submarine build

South Australia has been confirmed as the home of Australia’s next-generation submarine build, in what will be the most transformative industrial endeavour in the nation’s history.

On 14 March 2023, the Optimal Pathway for Australia’s acquisition of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability was announced as part of the AUKUS partnership.

Known as SSN-AUKUS – the trilaterally-developed submarine will be an evolution of the United Kingdom’s Astute class submarine and incorporate the very best of Australian, United States and United Kingdom technology.

Australia and the United Kingdom will operate SSN-AUKUS submarines as their submarine of the future with two production lines – one based at Barrow-in-Furness in the UK, and one based at the world-class Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, South Australia.

The Adelaide-built submarines will deliver cutting-edge defence capability to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), creating unprecedented opportunities for South Australian industry and workers. Australia’s first SSN-AUKUS is planned for delivery in the early 2040s.

To bridge the capability gap created by the gradual retirement of the Collins-class submarine fleet,  Australia will also take delivery of three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines from early next decade. This will allow time to build up and train thousands of workers and prepare the Osborne Naval Shipyard for full-scale construction of the SSN-AUKUS submarines.

A range of announcements have also been unveiled to prepare and support the South Australian workforce, industry and infrastructure needed for the task ahead, including:

  • A Cooperation Agreement has been signed by the Commonwealth and South Australian governments that will see them work together on initiatives including:
    • An exchange of land to facilitate development of the new Submarine Construction Yard at Osborne, with enabling works commencing in 2023.
    • The construction, establishment and operation of a Skills and Training Academy campus in South Australia delivering tailored education, training and skilling to accelerate the recruitment of a highly skilled workforce.
    • An additional 800 Commonwealth Supported Places at South Australian universities, focused on STEM disciplines.
  • South Australia will become a home for international nuclear expertise through landmark research and education partnerships between Flinders University and The University of Manchester and The University of Rhode Island.
  • A university software engineering degree apprenticeship pilot program will be fast-tracked as part of a partnership between the South Australian Government, University of South Australia and Ai Group.
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