BAE Systems wins £3.95-billion contract to start SSN-AUKUS sub work

BAE Systems wins £3.95-billion contract to start SSN-AUKUS sub work
Artist's concept of SSN-AUKUS
Artist's concept of SSN-AUKUS
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Artist's concept of SSN-AUKUS
Artist's concept of SSN-AUKUS

The UK/US/Australian AUKUS nuclear attack submarine treaty is moving from diplomacy to nuts-and-bolts after the UK Ministry of Defence awarded a £3.95-billion (US$4.8 billion) contract to begin detailed design work and long-term procurement for the SSN-AUKUS-class boat.

In response to the profound shift in the geopolitical scene, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, the United States, Britain, and Australia entered into the AUKUS agreement in 2021 aimed at providing the Royal Australian Navy with a home-built and supported fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

This treaty represented an unprecedented technology-sharing agreement where the two most advanced Western nuclear powers agreed to provide both technological expertise and even complete nuclear submarines to Australia to replace the current Collins-class conventional fleet as it developed the domestic infrastructure to build and support its own attack boats.

It's a simple thing to state, but this covers an incredibly complex enterprise that will take decades to implement. As a result, the past two years have seen a lot of speculation about what AUKUS would actually look like. What would the submarines, if any, be? Would the agreement go forward, or would it be quietly moved to the back burner?

The new award dovetails AUKUS and the British program to replace the Astute-class submarines currently being built, while producing more common technologies that will be installed in the US, UK, and Australian boats. The SSN-AUKUS-class will begin construction when the last of the Astute subs are completed and some of these may go to Australia while domestic shipyards are being built and will replace the American Virginia-class boats that the RAN will buy as a stopgap.

Along with the design and procurement work through 2028, the new agreement will allow for improving the BAE Systems' site in Barrow-in-Furness and the expansion of the Rolls-Royce Raynesway site in Derby for nuclear reactor construction. Because of international nuclear treaty obligations, Britain and the US will provide Australia with completed nuclear reactors and fuel. The submarines will include American propulsion plant systems and components as well as a missile vertical launch system and weapons that will be common to all three navies.

"This multi-billion-pound investment in the AUKUS submarine program will help deliver the long-term hunter-killer submarine capabilities the UK needs to maintain our strategic advantage and secure our leading place in a contested global order," said Grant Shapps, Britain's Defence Secretary. "I’m committed to backing our defense industry, because it’s only with the mission critical support of businesses like BAE Systems that the UK can develop the advanced equipment our Armed Forces need to defend the British people in a more dangerous world."

Source: BAE Systems

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