Estimated reading time 2 minutes 2 Min

Australia’s nuclear submarine vision ready to surface

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will outline Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear submarines alongside US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

March 14, 2023
By Dominic Giannini
14 March 2023

The biggest ace in Australia’s defence arsenal is ready to be unveiled.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is preparing to outline the terms of a nuclear submarines deal with the US and UK.

Mr Albanese is in the United States to detail the plan, which is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars and span three decades.

He will be joined by US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the announcement.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said it would be one of Australia’s greatest projects.

“This is a huge undertaking,” he said. 

“It will provide for a much more self-reliant Australia for both our kids and our grandkids. This is what is going to keep Australia’s safe over the long term.”

It is expected Australia will first buy three US Virginia class submarines, with the option of buying two more, in the early 2030s. 

Submarines based on a UK design with an American weapons system will hit the waters later that decade.

US nuclear submarines will rotate through Australia in the meantime to help prop up defence and deterrence against Chinese aggression. 

China has hit back at the agreement, accusing the three nations of sparking an arms race and threatening peace in the region – which Mr Marles rejected.

“We have worked very hard to stabilise our relationship with China and we will continue to do that,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, this decision is really about Australia’s defence.” 

It’s likely Canberra will need to support the American production line, financially and with personnel. 

National security expert John Blaxland said this would help both countries.

“Australia contributing financially and sending people to work in that space is actually helping guarantee that quid pro quo,” Professor Blaxland said. 

“So we scratch their back, they’ll scratch ours.”

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie pledged the coalition’s support but also promised to hold the government to account. 

“We’ll be focusing on timing, sequencing and budget,” he said.

“But of course it’s really important that we don’t make these submarines a political football.”

More in Top Stories