An announcement on Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program is due “shortly”, according to the chief White House adviser for the Indo-Pacific.
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Dr Kurt Campbell, the Biden administration’s National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, has lauded the progress of technology-sharing negotiations as part of the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, unveiled in September last year.
In an address to the Center for a New American Security — a US foreign policy think tank founded by Dr Campbell — the White House adviser hinted an announcement was imminent.
“Watch this space,” he said.
“I think we’ve made, behind the scenes, remarkable progress in areas associated with technology, where not only the three countries are deeply engaged but other partners are also supporting working groups.
“We will have more to say, shortly, with regard to the submarine initiative.”
The United Kingdom’s Astute Class vessel and the US’ Virginia Class platform are currently under consideration by the Commonwealth government’s Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class fleet.
The taskforce’s considerations include requirements for design, construction, maintenance, infrastructure, industry capacity, nuclear safety, environmental protection, crewing and training.
The taskforce will also advise on building timeframes, costs and supply needs.
Dr Campbell went on to welcome the Albanese government’s cooperation since its election late last month.
“I just want to underscore that as we see a new government finding its legs in Australia, the partnership on AUKUS could not be stronger,” he added.
“We're very gratified by the engagement on these and many other issues that we’ve had.”
Dr Campbell’s remarks came just a day after the Australia-US Submarine Officer Pipeline Act was introduced into the US Congress.
The bipartisan bill aims to establish a “joint training pipeline” between the US Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, enabling commanding officers to undertake US-based nuclear submarine training.
Specifically, under the program, a minimum of two Australian submarine officers would be selected each year to:
- receive training in the Navy Nuclear Propulsion School;
- enrol in the submarine office basic course; and
- be assigned to duty on an operational US submarine at sea.
Progress with the AUKUS agreement follows the news €555 million (AU$830 million) would be paid to French shipbuilder Naval Group to compensate for the termination of its $90 billion SEA 1000 contract in favour of a nuclear submarine alternative.
The company had been tasked with developing 12 diesel-powered Attack Class submarines to the Royal Australian Navy.