British-led design chosen for AUKUS submarine project SSN-AUKUS

Line of Defence Magazine - Update

UK design green lighted for SSN-AUKUS. Image: UK Government.

The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, with the UK submarines in operation by the late 2030s following a massive, trilateral building project.

The first generation of AUKUS nuclear submarines will be built in the UK and Australia, based on the UK’s world-leading submarine design, the Prime Minister has announced today alongside the leaders of Australia and the United States.

Following an 18-month scoping period to establish the optimal pathway to Australia acquiring this capability, a model has been chosen based on the UK’s world-leading design and incorporating cutting-edge US submarine technology.

Australia and the UK will both build new submarines to this design, known as ‘SSN-AUKUS’, with construction of the UK’s submarines taking place principally in Barrow-in-Furness, and Australia working over the next decade to build up its submarine industrial base. Australia will build its submarines in South Australia with some components manufactured in the UK.

The first UK submarines built to this design will be delivered in the late 2030s to replace its current Astute-Class vessels, and the first Australian submarines will follow in the early 2040s.

It is claimed that the SSN-AUKUS submarines will be the largest, most advanced and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy, combining world-leading sensors, design and weaponry in one vessel.

Choosing an interoperable submarine design, states the UK Government, will allow the Royal Navy, with its Australian and US counterparts, to work together to meet shared threats and deter aggression, including “in the Indo-Pacific where the refresh of the UK’s Integrated Review, published today, has confirmed the importance of increased engagement in this febrile region.”

“The strategy confirms the Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’ as a permanent pillar of the UK’s international policy.”

“This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“And I am hugely pleased that the plans we have announced today will see pioneering British design expertise protect our people and our allies for generations to come.”

Construction will start on the UK’s SNN-AUKUS submarines towards the end of this decade. Decisions about how many submarines the UK requires will be made in the coming years, based on the strategic threat picture at the time. The UK’s SSN-AUKUS submarines will be built by BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

“This is a significant step forward for our three nations as we work together to contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific and across the world,” said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

“To deliver the new submarines by the earliest possible date, Royal Australian Navy personnel will be embedded in the Royal Navy and US Navy, and – subject to necessary arrangements – at British and American submarine industrial bases, by the end of this year. This process will accelerate the training of Australian personnel required for them to operate a submarine fleet.

“US submarines will also increase port visits to Australia from this year with the UK increasing visits from 2026. British and American SSNs will make longer term deployments to Australia from as early as 2027 to accelerate the development of Australia’s workforce, infrastructure and regulatory system.

“As part of the agreement, to fulfil Australia’s need for a nuclear-powered submarine until the SSN-AUKUS is operational, the US intends to sell Australia a number of Virginia-Class submarines in the 2030s.”