Barton Deakin Brief: AUKUS/Nuclear-Powered Submarines

Date: Sep 2021

Barton Deakin Brief: AUKUS/Nuclear-Powered Submarines

16 September 2021


Today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden announced the formation of a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS). The AUKUS alliance aims to promote deeper information and technology sharing and as its first major initiative, will provide a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.

Aims of the AUKUS Alliance

A key aim of the AUKUS alliance is to promote information and technology sharing including the integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains. The initial efforts of the agreement will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional undersea capabilities. The joint statement stated that this announcement will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Nuclear-Powered Submarines

The United States and the United Kingdom will share expertise and intelligence in order to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. Over the next 18 months AUKUS will find the optimal pathway to deliver the submarines and seeking to bring this capability into service at the earliest achievable date. The Prime Minister announced that Australia intends to build the submarines in Adelaide.

The new agreement with AUKUS to acquire nuclear-powered submarines means Australia is ceasing their agreement with French company, Naval Group to build 12 diesel-electric submarines in Australia.

Australia’s Commitment to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Prime Minister Morrison has made clear that Australia does not seek to acquire nuclear weapons or establish nuclear capability. The Prime Minister has flagged that there will be an examination of what Australia will need to do to exercise nuclear stewardship responsibilities.

The government has announced Australia will ensure the highest standards to ensure the non-proliferation, safety, and security of nuclear material and technology. Prime Minster Morrison stated that Australia remains committed to its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Replacing the Collins Class – a difficult history

Replacing the Collins Class submarines has been a difficult process:

2007     Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced that planning for the Collins class submarines had commenced.

2009     Defence White Paper confirms the replacement project, stating that it would be twelve vessels.

2015      The contenders included ThyssenKrupp from Germany, Saab of Sweden, Soryu from Japan, and DCNS from France

2016     The Turnbull government announced the contract for French company Naval Group (formerly called DCNS) to design and build diesel-electric submarines in Adelaide.

2021      The Morrison government informs France that it is cancelling the contract and pursuing nuclear-powered submarines through the United States/United Kingdom.

For more information

To read the Joint Leaders Statement on AUKUS, click here.

To read the Prime Minister’s Address on AUKUS, click here.


For more information, contact David Alexander on +61 457 400 524, Grahame Morris on +61 411 222 680, Cheryl Cartwright on +61 419 996 066, John Griffin on +61 419 901 159 or Jack de Hennin on +61 424 828 127.

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