US wants to expedite Australia's acquisition of nuclear submarines

According to information published by Bloomberg on September 24, 2022, the US is considering accelerating the production of nuclear attack submarines to bolster Australia’s defense capabilities to counter China’s growing military influence in the Indo-Pacific.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Flag of the three countries (Australia, UK, and US) making up the AUKUS pact. (Picture source: Australian government)

In 2016, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull signed a A$50 billion (€31 billion) deal with the partly French government-owned company Naval Group (known as DCNS until 2017) to design a new generation of submarines, known as the Attack class, under the "Future Submarine Program", scheduled to replace the Collins class.

The design was based on the latest French nuclear-powered attack submarine, the Barracuda class, which required converting the nuclear propulsion to conventional propulsion.

On 15 September 2021, Australia decided to cancel the contract with Naval Group for the Attack-class submarines despite having already spent about $2.4 billion on the French project. It was expected that Australia would have to pay hundreds of millions of Euros in penalties for cancelling the contract.

French former MFA, Le Drian, further stated in a radio interview that the contract termination was a "stab in the back". On 17 September, France recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the US, Jean-Pierre Thébault and Philippe Étienne respectively. Despite tension in the past, France had never before withdrawn its ambassador to the United States.

Under the pact, the US will share nuclear propulsion technology with Australia the same as it has with the UK since 1958 under the US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement as will the UK. The Royal Australian Navy will acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines armed with conventional weapons to be built in Australia.

Australia will extend the life of its Collins-class submarines that the Attack class was due to replace and may consider leasing or buying nuclear-powered submarines from the US or the UK in the interim until the delivery of its future nuclear-powered submarines.

On 31 August 2022, the UK announced that Australian submariners would receive training aboard HMS Anson, an Astute-class submarine that was commissioned on that same day.