Canberra, London and Washington presented a solid strategy to equip Australia with nuclear attack submarines

The acquisition of nuclear attack submarines (SNA) by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), announced 18 months ago now as part of the creation of the AUKUS alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, had raised many questions about the real feasibility of such a program, but also about the costs which will, without a doubt, be very high to allow the RAN to go from 6 conventional submarines from the Collins class to 8 SNAs of American or British design, even though the country does not have a civilian nuclear industry. The presentation, on the occasion of the AUKUS Event in San Diego on March 13 in the presence of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, British Prime Minister Richi Sunak and American President Joe Biden, of the plan that will be applied to achieve this, was therefore very expected, particularly in France, which is still irritated by the cancellation of the 12 Attack-class submarines under conditions that are indeed very disrespectful vis-à-vis a partner and ally. However, the plan presented yesterday is probably the most solid and balanced option that could be followed by the 3 nations, so as to guarantee the effectiveness of this agreement under the best conditions.

The formal Plan presented is very close to the one who had been the subject of indiscretion a few days ago. Australia will look to Britain for the design of a new class of SSNs designated SSN AUKUS and which will almost jointly enter service with the Royal Navy in the late 2030s to begin the replacement of the Astute-class SSNs , and in 2040 in Australia. In addition, the 8 ships intended for the Royal Navy will be built in Australia, and will be equipped with US technologies borrowed from the Virginia class ships. To ensure the transition with the withdrawal of the Collins-class submarines which will not go beyond the beginning of the 2030s, Canberra will be able to acquire 3 Virginia-class SNAs from the US Navy, partly second-hand and partly new. In addition, Australia will have the possibility of acquiring 2 additional vessels of this type if additional delays delay the delivery of Australian SNAs. Finally, to ensure the protection of Australia, to strengthen the Allied presence in the Pacific, but also to increase the skills of the crews and maintenance personnel of the Royal Australian Navy, 5 allied SNAs, 4 Americans and 1 British, will be deployed quickly from the naval base of Perth, in the south-west of the country on the coast bordering the Indian Ocean.

Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak in San Diego on March 13, 2023 for the presentation of the "SSN AUKUS" plan

It is clear that the approach presented makes sense, and answers many questions and concerns, sometimes even certain criticisms. By turning to Great Britain, Australia will allow itself to play a greater role in the design of the new class of SNA intended to replace the Astute, while the shared order will not only reduce development costs reported to a unit, but also to share part of the manufacturing costs on larger series. At the same time, this solution makes it possible to reduce the impact of this plan on the rise in power of the US Navy, which makes the modernization and extension of its submarine fleet the top priority to contain the Chinese threat. . However, Washington agrees to sell 3 Virginia at the beginning of the next decade, probably including 1 new ship, which limits the constraints on the US Navy's effort, probably offset by the deployment of 4 of its sub-marines. sailors in Perth, an ideal location to control the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, so as to save days of deployment of its submarine fleet in transit from San Diego or Pearl Harbor to these two oceans. The presence of a British SNA also offsets the impact of these measures with regard to the Pacific theater, which remains the Pentagon's main concern.

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