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Next-generation UK attack submarine may be fully collaborative AUKUS design, Defence Secretary says

1st September 2022 - 09:46 GMT | by Harry Lye in Barrow-In-Furness

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Australian submariners will train with UK RN counterparts on the newly commissioned HMS Anson under the AUKUS agreement. (Photo: UK MoD/ Crown Copyright)

A 'collaborative sub' design with AUKUS partners is a future option for the UK, according to Ben Wallace.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said the design of the UK’s next attack submarine could be a ‘collaborative sub’ fully shared with AUKUS partners Australia and the US.

Speaking during a press conference following the commissioning of the fifth RN Astute-class submarine HMS Anson, Wallace said the 'ultimate' culmination of AUKUS, in his view, was to produce a boat in the 2030s that is 'truly collaborative'.

Standing alongside Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles, Wallace said: "The ultimate is all of us to get through to 2030 where we produce a submarine that is, in my view, truly collaborative. You might have a bit of all three of us on it, and in the meantime, we help contribute to building a skills base, a workforce and operating Navy to deliver that.

'It may look like a submarine that none of us have, and I can tell you that because when [Astute-class] boat seven is out, that is it; we are on to our next design, and that may well be fully shared with all the three nations as a collaborative sub.'

The UK is already working on the successor to the Astute class under the SSN(R) programme. Contracts for development work have already been placed with BAE Systems (earmarked to build the boats) and Rolls-Royce, which will develop the nuclear reactor.

The in-service life of Australia's six Collins class submarines, which were commissioned between 1996 and 2003, will probably be extended beyond their original limit to the 2040s or thereabouts.

For its part, the US is already engaged in developing a successor to the Virginia class under its SSN(X) project.

Commenting on considerations for Australia's future AUKUS submarine, Marles said: 'Cost is clearly a factor obviously, but it's not the only thing. We need to be thinking about capability; that is what's driving this process in the first place. We need a long-range, highly capable submarine — what that means going forward is that it needs to be nuclear powered. So, the capability is fundamental.

'But also, we need to be thinking through the solution and how we can get this capability as soon as possible, given the lost decade that we have had.'

Under the AUKUS agreement, Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submariners will join UK crews to train on the newly commissioned HMS Anson.

RAN personnel have already been admitted to UK and US specialised nuclear training courses.

The UK MoD said the training and exchanges began a 'multigenerational naval partnership' between the AUKUS trio.

The newly-commissioned Anson will remain in Barrow for several weeks before undergoing final checks, tests and tweaks before sailing to HMNB Clyde, where the boat will prepare for sea trials.

The fifth Astute-class boat conducted a dive in Barrow in February to ensure its dive and surface systems, ballast tanks, depth sensors and sonars worked as intended and that the boat was accurately balanced and stable when underwater.

The commissioning ceremony was attended by Wallace, Marles and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Anson will be armed with a mix of Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk Block V missiles, allowing it to engage maritime and land targets.

Two further Astute-class submarines, Agamemnon and Agincourt , are in various stages of production at Barrow.

Shephard Defence Insight notes that the Astute boats displace 8,600t and measure 97m long with a beam of 11.3m and a draught of 10m when surfaced.

The submarines are powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor and MTU 600 diesel generators offering an unlimited range and a top speed of 30kt.

Harry Lye

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Harry Lye


Harry Lye is Senior Naval Reporter at Shephard Media.

Harry joined the company in 2021, …

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