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Osborne Shipyard SSN expansion plan unveiled

Osborne Shipyard SSN expansion plan unveiled

Next week’s federal budget is set to include a commitment to secure more space at Osborne Shipyard to support preparations for Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

Next week’s federal budget is set to include a commitment to secure more space at Osborne Shipyard to support preparations for Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

The Commonwealth government has confirmed plans to sign a leasing agreement with Renewal SA for approximately 45 hectares of land towards the northern end of the Osborne Naval Precinct.

The plan, set to be announced in Tuesday’s federal budget, follows a preliminary feasibility study, which identified the need to secure additional space for the potential construction of the Royal Australian Navy’s future nuclear-powered submarines promised under the AUKUS agreement.


Once the lease has been signed, the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce is expected to request land testing and geotechnical surveys commissioned by Australian Naval Infrastructure (ANI).

This would be aimed at assessing the overall feasibility of the site, while also ensuring the assessments required under the Atomic Energy Agency Safety Standards are completed.

The leasing arrangement would represent a more than tripling of Osborne North’s submarine construction yard, from approximately 20 hectares to 65 hectares.

An initial leasing period of 12 months is expected, with additional extension options to be explored after a transfer of ownership is negotiated.

Finance Minister and Senator for South Australia Simon Birmingham, said the additional land would form part of one of the most sophisticated construction yards in the world.

Minister Birmingham also noted the expansion project’s potential contribution to the local economy.

“The scale of the potential submarine construction yard is a reminder of the scale of work that will be undertaken in SA and the thousands of highly skilled jobs it will create,” he added.

 “… The construction of the new subs shipyard will be a mammoth task. It’s important we start to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on sites as part of the current work the Taskforce.

This is the latest of a number of pre-election Defence announcements from the Commonwealth government, aimed at bolstering Australia’s naval shipbuilding capabilities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced a $4.3 billion investment in the development of the first large-vessel dry docking facility at Henderson Shipyard in Western Australia, and a pledge to construct a new east coast naval base.

These upgrades are also expected to support US and UK SSN operations.

Army and Royal Australian Air Forces bases are also set to be upgraded a new $875 million investment in defence infrastructure over 2022 and 2023.

In announcing this latest $875 million pledge at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth — which comes just days after $244 million was committed for upgrades to RAAF Base Curtin — Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said it represents the biggest investment in the Estate Works Program since the contract began in 2014, adding it would support the $38 billion push to expand the Australian Defence Force by 30 per cent over the next 18 years. 

This nationwide overhaul of defence infrastructure also follows a visit from a US delegation, led by US Indo-Pacific Command’s Director for Logistics and Engineering, Brigadier General Jered Helwig, which has  toured bases and facilities in Australia to advance commitments announced following the Australian-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) 2021.

These included the establishment of combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting and combined military operations in the region.

[Related: Government earmarks $875m for nationwide ADF base upgrades]

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