Australia’s development of nuclear submarines with AUKUS partners is again in focus after Anthony Albanese’s government finally agreed to pay a hefty $835 million to the French contractor Naval Group as compensation for abandoning the submarine deal.
With a major hurdle in the way, the Australian government could pursue nuclear submarine development with renewed vigor. Bringing potential joy to UK, Australian defense official says Express in an exclusive interview that the AUKUS deal will potentially benefit UK-based engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce.
Asked if Rolls Royce would be involved in building nuclear submarines, Anthony Heath, senior director of defense and aerospace trade and investment at Investment NSW, said: “It is highly likely that ‘they will, because of the connection with current fighter-class ships.’
The Hunter-class frigates are a new class of multi-mission frigates designed for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) by BAE Systems Australia. Rolls-Royce’s MT30 gas turbine must be integrated in the ship.
However, Heath stressed that “supply is still ongoing”. If Rolls Royce wins the engine development contract, it will be a big win for British industry, which has spread its wings far and wide after its divorce from the European Union.
These remarks also take on their full meaning following the controversial article by the former Australian Minister of Defense in The Australian.
The ex-minister recently revealed that his government plans to buy the US Virginia-class nuclear submarines by 2030 and build eight more ships, bringing the total strength of the fleet to ten.
Dutton said Australia planned to buy two US submarines ‘this decade’ to avoid a gap in replacing Australia’s aging fleet of six Collins-class submarines, with another eight US submarines on the way development in South Australia under the program.
He said the idea would eliminate the need to wait until 2038 for the first American-designed submarines to be built in Australia. To “honour and respect” the British side, Dutton said he would have ordered more Hunter-class frigates or other defense equipment from Britain, as previously noted by EurAsian Times.
While the controversial remarks were condemned by the Australian government and dismissed as Dutton’s “rank policy” it has the potential to raise eyebrows in the UK. Experts say Australia could buy British Astute-class or American Virginia-class submarines.
Moreover, the choice of strategic partner (US or UK) for the purchase of the submarine would also mean better integration in the South Pacific region for the chosen partner.
Great prospects for British engines?
Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the AUKUS treaty in September 2021 amid growing tensions between the West and nuclear-armed China, which has been steadily gaining ground in the Pacific, Australia’s traditional sphere of influence.
Canberra announced in March this year that the first phase of a nuclear propulsion technology acquisition program had begun. With that, it is only the second country after the UK to get nuclear propulsion technology from the US.
This morning I met with British High Commissioner Victoria Treadell and US Chargé d’Affaires Michael Goldman to sign the AUKUS Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Exchange Agreement. This agreement formalizes Australia’s access to highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology. pic.twitter.com/UtKYRl6PwS
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) November 22, 2021
UK-based Rolls Royce engines power the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines.
“We are responsible for the delivery of the Nuclear Steam Power Plants (NSRP), together with parts of the secondary propulsion systems, to the UK Ministry of Defence. We also manage these assets throughout their life cycle,” the Rolls Royce website explains.
It provides frontline support for the Royal Navy’s submarine reactor plant equipment worldwide from the main operations center in Derby.
The NSRP’s reactor cores, key system piping and valves, large vessels and electronic control systems are all designed and engineered by Rolls Royce experts. Parts of secondary equipment, such as turbogenerators and thrusters, are also subject to the same review.
Speaking about the opportunity to expand the ties, a Rolls-Royce spokesman, Tom Samson, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “With AUKUS, Australia now has a new opportunity ahead of it.
“If you’re considering going nuclear as part of your defense program, you’d be the only country that has done so and not fully exploited a commercial civilian nuclear program. So you have the opportunity now.
Since the launch of HMS Valiant in 1963, Rolls Royce has powered every attack submarine in the Royal Navy. According to Rolls Royce, the entire Royal Navy SSBN submarine fleet is now fitted with the most advanced reactor cores, allowing them to operate for over 20 years without needing to be refueled.
Speaking on Anglo-Australian relations, Invest NSW’s Heath said: ‘The defense partnership between Australia and the UK is closely linked, and AUKUS has sought to formalize some of the more technical aspects of this. agreement, especially when it comes to cyber and AI.
“This close partnership has been further strengthened by recent statements by the UK Government regarding the continuation of its global agenda for Britain and its interest in looking east of Suez again.
Consequently, British and Australian interests will inevitably become more closely aligned. EurAsian Times could not independently verify whether the prospect of a Rolls Royce engine was under consideration.
Currently, the Australian nuclear submarine project remains marred by several controversies including the lack of nuclear infrastructure in Australia. A clearer picture will only emerge when the Albanian government resolves the many issues plaguing the development of a submarine.