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Australia committed to nuclear-powered submarine pathway over diesel electrics, says Marles

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Honourable Richard Marles MP, announces the build and sustainment partners for Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines during AUKMIN in Adelaide, South Australia. The Australian government has selected ASC and BAE Systems to build Australia’s SSN- AUKUS submarines. Photo: Jay Cronan

The Australian federal government has reaffirmed its commitment towards the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines and their superiority over other available diesel-electric options.

The Australian federal government has reaffirmed its commitment towards the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines and their superiority over other available diesel-electric options.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, speaking to a television interview, confirmed the US, the UK, and Australia were on the right path to acquiring nuclear-powered submarine capability, following the recent major AUKUS procurement announcement made on 22 March.

“AUKUS exists because we need to have a much greater capability in our defence force. This is actually about Australia’s future and us determining our own future,” Marles said.

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“We are very confident that AUKUS will be able to continue over the long term because it has bipartisan support in the UK, here in Australia, and in the US as well.”

Deputy Prime Minister Marles, speaking to ABC News Breakfast on 22 March, said Australia will need nuclear-powered submarines provided through AUKUS in the future but fell short of naming any particular adversary they might be targeted towards.

“What nuclear-powered submarines enable us to do is to have submarines underwater, doing what they do, which is to act with stealth in a persistent way,” Marles said.

“For months … when you’ve got nuclear power, powering the submarine, the limiting factor in terms of having a submarine underwater ends up being the food for the crew.

“Right now, our Collins Class submarines, which are highly capable, are diesel-electric submarines. But every few days, they are required to come to the surface to turn on their diesel engines, engage in what’s called ‘snorting’ to recharge the electric batteries.

“And whilst you can do that now in a way which is relatively undetected, all that we understand is that through the latter part of this decade and into the 2030s, that activity will become more detectable, which means that those submarines, being able to maintain their stealth will be, that will become much more difficult.

“Which is why if we want to actually maintain the capability we’ve got today, we are going to need to do it with nuclear power in those submarines.

“And that’s why it’s really important that we walk down that path. And I think the final point to make is submarines are the single-most important military platform that we have. And so, it’s really critical that we have a highly capable, highly capable submarine taking us into the future. And nuclear power is what we’ll need to power that.”

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