New AUKUS Submarines not till 2038
The first nuclear-powered submarine to be constructed under the AUKUS alliance is anticipated to be sold to Australia in the year 2038, as disclosed by a high-ranking US naval officer. Additionally, the officer, Vice Admiral Bill Houston, shared that the initial transactions involving used Virginia-class submarines are likely to take place in 2032 and 2035.
Visiting Sydney for a separate media event, the commander of the US Pacific fleet assured Australians that their country would maintain complete sovereignty over the American technology when the submarines are eventually deployed. Vice Admiral Houston outlined a provisional timeline for the transfer of Virginia-class submarines to Australia within the AUKUS framework during a briefing in Washington.
As reported by Breaking Defence, Vice Admiral Houston indicated that the planned sales of “in-service submarines” to Australia are scheduled for 2032 and 2035. Subsequently, in 2038, Australia is expected to acquire a newly constructed Block VII version of the Virginia-class submarine. Notably, this Block VII submarine will lack the Virginia Payload Module, a mid-body section found on certain fleet boats that enhances missile capacity.
In adherence to the AUKUS agreement, the United States is committed to selling a minimum of three, and potentially up to five, Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the 2030s. Following this phase, the United Kingdom will collaborate with Australia to jointly construct a new SSN-AUKUS submarine fleet.
While Defence Minister Richard Marles has yet to comment on the specifics of the proposed pathway for nuclear-powered submarines, he expressed optimism earlier in the week, highlighting broad political support for the project in the US. He noted ongoing legislative efforts in the US Congress aimed at facilitating the sale of Virginias and enabling Australia’s contribution to the American industrial uplift.
To enable the transfers to Australia, US officials emphasize the need to increase the annual production rate of Virginia-class submarines from the current 1.2 vessels to well above 2 per year. Marles underscored this requirement at the International Maritime Exposition in Sydney, stating the importance of enhancing production capacity.
In a revealing disclosure, Vice Admiral Houston conveyed that Australian assets had been targeted by the Chinese military in numerous dangerous intercepts conducted in the South China Sea over the past two years. He expressed deep concern about the increasing provocations and hazards posed by these actions.
Despite concerns raised by critics of the AUKUS partnership, suggesting potential entanglement in a future US-China conflict over Taiwan, Admiral Paparo dismissed these worries. Emphasizing the importance of sovereignty as an expression of human dignity at the state level, he underscored mutual respect as the foundational principle of the alliance. Admiral Paparo also expressed his confidence in the Australian government’s recent decision not to terminate a Chinese-owned company’s lease of Darwin Port.