Australia’s nuclear submarine fleet won’t be fully at sea at some point
AUKUS Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead has revealed in an exclusive interview with Sky News Australia that Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarine fleet will not be fully at sea at any given time. Vice Admiral Mead responded to strong criticism of former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating’s outsourcing deal, saying ‘all key capabilities’ needed maintenance which would prevent them from being constantly deployed.
The AUKUS task force leader also revealed for the first time that the forward rotation of US and UK submarines in Western Australia will not be indefinite. The rotation will begin with HMAS Stirling in 2027, but will end once Australia has its own nuclear-powered fleet. Vice Admiral Mead also dismissed claims that the SSN-AUKUS class will be obsolete by the time it hits the water in the 2040s.
Extending the life of Australia’s submarine fleet
Questions remained over Australia’s existing submarine forces, with mixed signals from the highest levels of government regarding the type life extension (LOTE) for the six Collins-class submarines. Vice Admiral Mead stopped all speculation and revealed that the plan was to extend the life of the entire fleet, independent of the delivery of the three American Virginia submarines under AUKUS. He also dismissed concerns that the Navy would struggle to operate three separate classes of submarines simultaneously, pointing to similarities between each ship’s technology and weapons systems.
The first Australian-made SSN AUKUS submarine will not be completed until 2042, and Vice Admiral Mead is fond of pointing out that this was a conservative estimate that took into account a number of contingencies. The goal is to ensure that you have a fleet, a capability that is ready and available to deploy as directed by the government.
Source: Ebene Magazine