Australia’s SSN-AUKUS Submarine Program

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States entered into a trilateral security partnership called AUKUS to build nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. The program, known as SSN-AUKUS, is a significant milestone in the defense cooperation between the three nations.


The AUKUS partnership was first announced in 2021, with further details revealed a year later. The agreement aims to strengthen the collective industrial base capacity and generate economic growth in the defense and national security sectors of all three countries.

Submarine Construction

Under the SSN-AUKUS program, Australia’s ASC and UK-based BAE Systems will collaborate to build the submarines. The vessels will be primarily based on a British design but will incorporate a US weapons system.

Australia plans to have eight nuclear-powered submarines in operation by the 2050s, consisting of a mix of the new AUKUS-class submarines built in Australia and the UK, as well as Virginia-class vessels purchased from the US. The program is expected to create a “drumbeat” of submarine production in Australia, with new vessels rolling off the production lines every few years.


The SSN-AUKUS submarines will be equipped for various missions, including intelligence, surveillance, undersea warfare, and strike operations. They will be quieter and stealthier than Australia’s current diesel-powered fleet and capable of deploying over vast distances without surfacing. The submarines will provide maximum interoperability among the AUKUS partners.


Australia has committed to providing 4.6 billion Australian dollars ($3 billion) to British industry to support the construction of the SSN-AUKUS submarines and ensure the timely delivery of the new fleet. All AUKUS partners are making significant investments to ensure the success of the program and are working to transform and integrate their trilateral industrial bases to support SSN cooperation.

Regional Concerns

China has claimed that the AUKUS deal risks setting off an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region. Beijing has stepped up its own military activities in recent years, modernizing and expanding its armed forces, including its navy. China has also become more assertive over its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea and its claim to the self-ruled democratic island of Taiwan.


  • The SSN-AUKUS program is the first time a country has obtained the capability to build nuclear-powered submarines and then continued production indefinitely.
  • The announcement of the Australian funding for British industry came a day after Australia and the UK signed a defense and security pact to better meet challenges such as China’s increased activity in the South China Sea and South Pacific.
  • On the day of the announcement, authorities in Taiwan detected 36 Chinese military aircraft around the island over the previous 24 hours, the highest number in 2024.



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