Going Shopping: Australia to Choose a Nuclear Submarine Design
Canberra wants to get the submarine off the drawing board and into the water.
Australian deputy prime minister and minister of defense Richard Marles explained that the country will be ready to choose a nuclear submarine design sometime in 2023. Canberra would also like to build the submarine as soon as possible once a design is finally chosen.
“What I’ve sought is to really look at every way in which we can speed that delivery or the process of having our first nuclear submarine in the water,” Marles said. “And so it will not just be about announcing which submarine, we will be talking about when that submarine will be in the water.”
Australia turned heads last year when the AUKUS partnership was revealed. The trilateral agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States opens the door for Canberra to become just the second nation with which the United States has shared nuclear submarine technological secrets.
The United States’ nuclear submarines are widely regarded as the stealthiest in the world. Not only do they give the U.S. Navy a powerful underwater presence, but they also form the basis of the United States’ sea-based nuclear triad.
“This is a really important issue for Australia,” Marles said. “It’s the most significant platform that we have, which builds our strategic space. And I mean that in terms of the whole, the strategic space in which we operate in the world diplomatically, in terms of trade, this is a fundamentally important national mission.”
Though Australia had been in high-level talks with France to replace the Australian Navy’s Collins-class conventionally-powered submarines, the deal fell through after the United States and Australia offer was accepted. “There is already a commitment to extend the life of Collins,” Marles said. “That will be a really important part of the program. But I don’t think that’s the totality of the answer. And there are a range of other options that we’re considering about how we can do this. But this is a really important piece of the puzzle.”
“It has been very important we feel to reach a settlement with France, so that we can put a line underneath that episode and move forward. Because France matters, France matters to Australia,” the deputy prime minister added.
The AUKUS partnership not only shares precious submarine information with Australia but also binds the country closer to the United States and the United Kingdom and highlights the threat Australia sees in China. “And it would be fair to say that the achievements, the aspirations of AUKUS are going to be tied up significantly with our success or not in being able to break down those barriers,” Deputy Prime Minister Marles said. “And those barriers, yes, some of them exist in the United States system, but it’s not exclusive to the US, like we have too and as does the UK.”
“It is and has been since the second world war, the most important bilateral relationship that we have,” Marles continued. “The alliance is completely central to our national security and the way we see the world.”
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson