Australia has officially welcomed the first US Virginia Class next-generation attack submarine to visit the nation since the AUKUS defence agreement was announced in March.
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The 115-metre, 7,800-tonne United States Navy submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) arrived in Perth, Western Australia, on 4 August for a scheduled port visit as part of routine patrols in the Indo-Pacific region.
The USS North Carolina’s visit follows an appearance by USS Asheville in March, USS Mississippi in November, and visits of USS Frank Cable and USS Springfield in April 2022.
The nuclear-powered Virginia Class vessel brings with it more than 130 crew members, from the homeport of Pearl Harbor, while docked at HMAS Stirling naval base on Garden Island, near Rockingham.
“Through increased UK and US port visits and the Submarine Rotational Force–West initiative, Australia will progressively develop the skills, knowledge, and expertise to operate, maintain, and steward nuclear-powered submarines,” said Australian Submarine Agency director general Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead.
“Australia is leveraging the more than 70 years of naval nuclear propulsion experience of our AUKUS partners as we become sovereign ready to take ownership of our own Virginia Class submarines from the early 2030s.”
During the visit, US crew members will welcome Royal Australian Navy submariners on board to see the vessel’s operations and technology firsthand.
US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy said the North Carolina’s visit demonstrates America’s unwavering commitment to its allies and partners.
“Our partnership is active and evident every day in Australia, and even more so under AUKUS,” US ambassador Kennedy said.
“The USS North Carolina’s visit builds on a strong tradition of Australia welcoming US sailors to its shores, advances our shared security goals in the region, and exemplifies the immense friendship and trust between our countries.”
US submariners will also volunteer in the community and visit tourist attractions and hospitality venues in Western Australia.
“Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States share a long history of security cooperation around the world,” said US Navy Rear Admiral, Submarine Group 7 Commander Chris Cavanaugh.
“I am impressed every day by our ability to work together seamlessly during undersea warfare training and operations.”
United Kingdom Royal Navy submarines director, Rear Admiral Simon Asquith said the visit demonstrates the remarkable progress being made by the US, the UK, and Australia to develop Australia’s own SSN capability.
“The Royal Navy looks forward to conducting similar visits in support of training of Australian personnel to safely operate nuclear submarine technology,” Rear Admiral Asquith said.