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Onward to AUKUS: RAN officers graduate US submarine training unit

Royal Australian Navy Officers LCDR Adam Klyne, LEUT William Hall and LCDR James Heydon have graduated the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit. Photo: US Navy.

Three Royal Australian Navy officers are closer to realising their dreams of operating RAN’s future nuclear-powered attack submarines, after graduating the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit.

Three Royal Australian Navy officers are closer to realising their dreams of operating RAN’s future nuclear-powered attack submarines, after graduating the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit.

Lieutenant Commander James Heydon, Lieutenant Commander Adam Klyne, and Lieutenant William Hall graduated in Charleston, USA, on 12 January. They had previously started at the Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in July 2023 as the first cadre of RAN personnel to go through the Department of Defense training pipeline.

NPTU trains officers, enlisted sailors, and civilians for shipboard nuclear power plant operation and maintenance of surface ships and submarines in the US Navy’s nuclear fleet.

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“I was really looking forward to putting the concepts and theories that we learned at power school into operation at the prototype training,” said LCDR Klyne.

“Operating a nuclear reactor was thrilling, humbling, and allowed us get that hands-on experience we need to safely operate the Royal Australian Navy’s future SSNs.”

The three Royal Australian Navy officers will next report to Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC) in Groton, Connecticut, where they will undergo the same training given to US Navy officers entering the submarine force.

“NPTU is where our nuclear operators put the knowledge and theories they learned in power school into actual power plant operation and watch standing capabilities,” said Admiral Bill Houston, director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

“It’s here that our students learn to safely and competently operate the plant in both normal and potential casualty situations.”

After completion of SOBC, they will be assigned to a US Navy Virginia Class submarine to continue their training and qualifications.

“Our progression through the schools in South Carolina, and next in Groton, bring us closer to our ultimate goal of serving aboard not just SSNs, but Australian-flagged SSNs early next decade,” said LEUT Hall.

The RAN program is being run in conjunction with future submarine crew requirements expected under the AUKUS trilateral agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (initially announced in September 2021).

Australia will acquire conventionally armed SSNs for the Royal Australian Navy under Pillar I of AUKUS via the Optimal Pathway announced by the leaders of the three partner nations on 13 March 2023.

As early as 2027, US and UK SSNs will begin extended rotations to Australia to accelerate the development of Australia’s workforce, infrastructure, and regulatory system as part of the Submarine Rotational Force – West (SRF-W). In addition, an increase in the number of US SSNs visiting HMAS Stirling in Western Australia will begin this year.

Depending on US congressional approval, the United States intends to sell three Virginia Class SSNs to Australia starting in the early 2030s, with the potential to sell up to two additional hulls if needed. The UK’s Royal Navy intends to take delivery of the first SSN AUKUS nuclear-powered attack submarine in the late 2030s followed by the first Australian-built SSN-AUKUS in the early 2040s.

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