CANBERRA, March 14 (Reuters) – Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine programme with the United States and Britain will cost up to A$368 billion ($245 billion) over the next three decades, a defence official said on Tuesday, the country’s biggest single defence programme in history.
U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday unveiled details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines, a major step to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
Albanese said the programme would start with a A$6 billion ($4 billion) investment over the next four years to expand a major submarine base and the country’s submarine shipyards, as well as train skilled workers.
“This will be an Australian sovereign capability – built by Australians, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy and sustained by Australian workers in Australian shipyards,” Albanese said in San Diego, California.
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“The scale, complexity and economic significance of the investment is akin to the creation of the Australian automotive industry in the post-war period,” Albanese added.
Australia will also provide A$3 billion to expand shipbuilding capacity in the U.S. and Britain, with the bulk of the money destined to speed up production of U.S. Virginia-class submarines.
The total cost of the submarine program is estimated to be A$268 billion to A$368 billion by 2055, or roughly 0.15% of gross domestic product per year, a defence official told Reuters.
The price tag involves the cost of building submarines as well as associated infrastructure and training.
The first Australian SSN-AUKUS boat, as the new class of submarines as been dubbed, will be delivered in 2042, and one will be built every three years until the fleet reaches eight.
The new AUKUS submarines will be built in the state of South Australia, where A$2 billion will be spent on infrastructure, while a naval base in Perth, set to become the base for the new submarine fleet, will be upgraded.
($1 = 1.5006 Australian dollars)
Additional reporting by Kirsty Needham and Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Praveen Menon, Sandra Maler and Gerry Doyle
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