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Australia to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines in place of discontinued Attack-class programme

Australia is to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines in-country for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in the first initiative of the enhanced AUKUS trilateral security partnership jointly announced by leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States on 15 September.

The announcement confirmed that Canberra is scrapping its contracts with French shipbuilder Naval Group for the design and construction of 12 conventionally powered Attack-class submarines to replace the RAN's six-strong Collins-class submarine fleet at an estimated acquisition cost of AUD90 billion (USD68 billion).

Thanking Naval Group, the government of France, and combat system integrator Lockheed Matin for their efforts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement that accelerating changes to regional security meant conventional submarines were unsuited to Australia's needs in the decades ahead.

Under AUKUS, the three nations would focus immediately on identifying the optimal pathway to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, he said.

Expressing its disappointment, Naval Group said in an official statement that the company had been offering Australia a regionally superior conventional submarine with exceptional performances. It had also been offering Australia a sovereign submarine capability making unrivalled commitments in terms of technology transfer, jobs, and local content.

According to informed sources, around AUD2.4 billion has been invested in the Attack-class programme to date, primarily for paying Naval Group but also Lockheed Martin and other programme partners.

An Australian Department of Defence (DoD) statement said the three AUKUS nations have committed to a comprehensive programme of work over the next 12 to 18 months to examine the full suite of requirements underpinning nuclear stewardship. A specific focus would be placed on safety, design, construction, operation, maintenance, disposal, regulation, training, environmental protection, installations and infrastructure, basing, workforce, and force structure.

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