Is the SSN-AUKUS program heading towards an industrial dead end?

Officially presented in March 2023, the SSN-AUKUS program, which aims to equip the Australian Navy with eight nuclear attack submarines, and to develop a new class of SSN jointly between Great Britain and Australia, has the subject of several questions since its launch. But the analysis published by the Australian site strategicanalysis.org could well pose an unavoidable question, yet without a satisfactory answer, concerning its industrial sustainability.

Whether it is its costs, direct or induced, which could exceed $350 billion for Canberra, the effects of recordings on other Australian programsMore also British, generated by these exorbitant costs, as well as particularly weak industrial return for Canberra, numerous subjects have, in turn, hit the headlines of a certain section of the Australian press for several months, without however generating any reaction from the three governments concerned.

But, an article published recently on the Strategic Analysis Australia website, could be more difficult to ignore. Indeed, the analysis carried out by Michael Shoebridge shows that given the state of the announcements, and the present and future industrial realities, it could well be that this program ultimately leads to an industrial impasse, weakening the Australian defensive posture, at a time when it will be most needed.

The Australian article builds its analysis on three reports recently published in recent weeks, two are American, the last is British.

The American CBO report on the sustainability of the US Navy equipment plan

The first of these reports was published by the Congress Budget Office, or CBO, an independent body reporting to Congress, responsible for evaluating budget requests transmitted to the American Parliament. Let us remember that across the Atlantic, it is Congress, and not the executive, which has the last word on the defense budget, but also on the financing of arms programs requested by the Pentagon and the executive.

US Navy aircraft carrier
The US Navy's equipment plan, transmitted to Congress as part of the 2024 armed forces financing law, is based on three options, but none of them is financeable without a significant increase in its appropriations. equipment.

This report concerns the evaluation of the plan, or rather plans, since there are 3, of equipment provided by the US Navy, within the framework of the Pentagon finance law of 2024. Without going into the details, he insists on the fact that the three equipment plans produced by the US Navy would require a considerable increase in the budget for the acquisition of new ships, on the basis of the budget currently available and planned, without any solution to guarantee the financing of this increase, has been presented.

The American CRS report on the possibilities for development in the manufacturing of nuclear submarines for the US Navy

The second American report, more precise on the subject of nuclear submarines and the SSN-AUKUS problem, was written by the Congress Research Service, or CRS, again an independent body of the US Congress, responsible for providing advice on the legislation under review, in this case, the US Armed Forces Financing Act for 2024.

This report considers the US Navy's plan which aims to increase the production of nuclear submarines by 150% by 2028 to be far too ambitious and optimistic, as mentioned a few days ago on our site. According to the CRS, the US Navy has largely underestimated the difficulties it will face in achieving such an objective, which involves moving from building 1,4 Virginia-class submarines each year to 2 Virginias and a new Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine within five years.

SSN-aukus Virginia Class program
To be able to sell the three Virginia-class SSNs to Australia as part of the SSN-AUKUS program, American shipyards will have to increase their production rates by more than 150%.

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