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Tentative UK approval given for £2bn nuclear submarine deal

Reports are emerging from the United Kingdom that the Sunak government has "agreed in principle" to sell the Royal Australian Navy a fleet of British-designed and potentially, partially-built fleet of nuclear powered submarines as part of the trilateral AUKUS agreement. 

Reports are emerging from the United Kingdom that the Sunak government has "agreed in principle" to sell the Royal Australian Navy a fleet of British-designed and potentially, partially-built fleet of nuclear powered submarines as part of the trilateral AUKUS agreement. 

Australia's pursuit of a fleet of nuclear powered submarines appears to be closer to fruition with the London-based newspaper The Sun revealing that Rishi Sunak's government has achieved an "in principle" agreement to provide the Royal Australian Navy with British-designed and at least, partially-built nuclear powered submarines worth an estimated £2 billion per unit at this early stage.  

The Sun reports that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the agreement next month in Washington DC, alongside US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese as part of the AUKUS agreement — with ministers of the British government "open to building a sub for another ally — like Australia — in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, securing billions of pounds and guaranteeing thousands of jobs for a generation." 

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Importantly, the reports state that this deal would potentially see Australia's future nuclear powered submarine would be built to an "existing" design — like the Royal Navy's Astute class submarines, as part of this, the Royal Navy has also categorically ruled out leasing a Royal Navy submarine to the Royal Australian Navy. 

The Sun details, "If constructed here (Barrow-in-Furness), the project could guarantee thousands of jobs and secure billions of pounds."

A spokesperson for the British government said, "Royal Navy submarines are not being lent to Australia. Australia requested the UK’s support in acquiring nuclear- powered submarines. As close partners, we are meeting that request.

"While talks are ongoing, we will not pre-judge the outcome of the current scoping period, which is being used to understand Australia’s capability requirement. We share a long history of co-operation with Australia on security and defence, including on submarines."

The Astute class are the largest and most advanced attack submarines ever built for the Royal Navy. Astute leads the way with many technological 'firsts' — they are the first Royal Navy Submarine not to be fitted with optical periscopes (instead high specification video technology is used to scan the horizon) and the submarines are the quietest ever made.

Measuring 97 metres in length, the boats can circumnavigate the globe submerged, producing their own oxygen and drinking water and incorporating a suite of advanced sensors, the Astute-class carry both Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles (TLAM) and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes providing a range of offensive weapons capabilities. 

 

 

Stephen Kuper

Stephen Kuper

Steve has an extensive career across government, defence industry and advocacy, having previously worked for cabinet ministers at both Federal and State levels.

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