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Australia plans new base for nuclear submarines on Pacific coast

A new base for Australia's future fleet of nuclear submarines is to be built on the country's east coast, with its location to be finalised by the end of 2023 from one of three options, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 7 March.

The new facility will be established at either Port Kembla or Newcastle in New South Wales, or at the Queensland capital of Brisbane, Morrison said. All three locations border the Pacific Ocean.

Australia's intention to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines from either the United States or the United Kingdom under the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) alliance was announced in September 2021.

The future east coast base was included in planned expenditure of more than AUD10 billion (USD7.3 billion) on facilities and infrastructure to transition to a nuclear-powered submarine fleet over the next 20 years, Morrison said.

“Establishing a second submarine base on our east coast will enhance our strategic deterrent capability, with significant advantages in operational, training, personnel, and industrial terms,” he said.

The new base would not replace current facilities, said Morrison, and given its strategic importance in the Indian Ocean, Fleet Base West near Perth would remain the home port to the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) fleet of Collins-class submarines and their nuclear successors.

Both the west and east coast bases would also be used by visiting nuclear-powered US and UK submarines, he added.

Separately, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton revealed that Australia might acquire nuclear submarines earlier than the expected 2040 timeline.

“We will have an announcement within the next couple of months about which boat we are going with [and] what we can do in the interim,” he said. “We are going to acquire the capability much sooner (than 2040).”

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