Australia to get first nuclear submarine early as China tensions rise

Australia to get the first of its nuclear submarines FIVE YEARS ahead of schedule as America fast-tracks $90billion project in face of rising tensions with China

  • Australia may be able to launch its first nuclear submarine in the early 2030s
  • Pentagon is fast-tracking project as West braces for confrontation with China
  • The $90billion fleet of eight nuclear submarines could now be built in Australia
  • Work is underway on designing local shipyards but skilled workers need training 

Rising tensions with China have fast-tracked the delivery of the first Australian nuclear submarine under the $90billion deal with the USA and the UK.

Australia now looks set to launch its first nuclear-powered submarine five years ahead of schedule as the West braces for confrontation with China.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has revealed the UK and US are ‘pulling out all the stops’ to speed up the massive project.

The controversial deal – which saw Australia abandon its contract with France for a fleet of diesel submarines –  could now see the new subs coming into operation in the first half of the 2030s.

Rising tensions with China have fast-tracked the delivery for the first Australian nuclear submarine under the $90billion deal with the USA and the UK (pictured, Australian submarine crews at work)

They were originally not expected to join the Australian naval fleet until 2040 at the earliest, but the US Defense Department is pushing to bring the timeline forward.

It comes as fears grow of a stand-off between the West and China over Taiwan, with Australian pledging to support any US response if the situation escalates.

‘I think we are advancing at a quicker pace than what we could have imagined even at the time of the announcement,’ Mr Dutton told The Australian. 

‘There has been no game-playing, no roadblocks, they are pulling out all stops to make this work. It’s a capability that we want to acquire quickly and we are in those discussions right now.’

He added: ‘ I think it’s the Americans’ desire to see us with capability much sooner than 2040 and obviously options are being explored at the moment.

‘I believe very much we can realise the capability in the first half of the 2030s and we are absolutely working towards that and I am only encouraged, not discouraged, out of the conversations we have had.’

Mr Dutton also hinted the submarines could even be built in Australia, despite the current lack of suitable shipyard facilities or nuclear power knowledge. 

Australia has yet to decide if they will be using the US Virginia Class nuclear submarine design or the UK’s similar Astute Class. 

They were originally not expected to join the Australian naval fleet until 2040 at the earliest, but the US Defense Department is pushing to bring the timeline forward (pictured, the US Virginia Class submarine which Australia is considering)

Australia has yet to decide if they will be using the US Virginia Class nuclear submarine design or the UK’s similar Astute Class (pictured)

But any move to manufacture them in Australia will require training shipyard workers, new equipment and specialist nuclear experts.

Some experts have predicted that may not be possible within the new shortened timeframe to rush the submarines into service.

However moving production to Australia may be inevitable as Mr Dutton said the UK and US had limited spare production capacity to build the Australian submarines.

And he said work was already underway with the international partners on designing local shipyards.

Australia’s current Collins Class submarines  (pictured) would need major overhauls to extend their service life beyond 2038

The new timeframe now matches the original plan for the introduction of the axed French submarines which were due to come into service in 2035.

Australia’s current Collins Class submarines would need major overhauls to extend their service life beyond 2038, making it vital to get the nuclear subs in the water as soon as possible.

The deal with the US and UK is for eight nuclear submarines, and they are likely to be built in Adelaide if the plan to manufacture them locally goes ahead. 

China branded the AUKUS deal as ‘extremely irresponsible” and has now pushed its backing for a nuclear-free treaty for south-east Asia. 

China’s President Xi Jinping (pictured)  branded the AUKUS deal as ‘extremely irresponsible” and has now pushed its backing for a nuclear-free treaty for south-east Asia

A Chinese government official Lijian Zhao said the deal will ‘intensify regional tensions, provoke a military arms race and threaten regional peace and stability.’ 

Mr Dutton said the rhetoric against Australia should be seen as just part of China’s attacks on all the other nations which oppose it and speak up against them.

He added: ‘We want a productive and fruitful friendship with China.

‘But we have values that we adhere to and we will not deviate from those values and adherence to international law.’

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