Friday, April 19, 2024

WA to house nation’s first nuclear-powered subs

Western Australia will be home to Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarines, Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, announced today.

The multi-generational undertaking to acquire and operate conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered sovereign submarines will see significant benefits for jobs and the economy in the West, the Deputy PM said.

“Western Australia plays a critical role in the defence of our nation. I am proud to see this continue as we acquire our first Australian nuclear-powered submarines,” he said.

“As our Navy personnel gain experience on visiting nuclear-powered submarines, we are ensuring our defence capability is in the most knowledgeable and trusted hands.

“Through Submarine Rotational Force – West, we are building the next-generation workforce that will not only operate our future submarines but steward them safely through their operational life.”

The nuclear submarine program will reportedly cost up to $368 billion over the next three decades, with the Federal Government to buy at least three US-made nuclear-powered submarines.

Australia will also take delivery of three, second-hand Virginia-class subs early next decade, pending US Congress approval, with the potential for the purchase of a further two under the AUKUS pact announced in San Diego today.

Locally, the Australian Government is set to invest up to $8 billion over the next decade to expand WA’s HMAS Stirling, creating around 3,000 direct jobs.

Beginning this year, Western Australia will receive more frequent port visits by US nuclear-powered submarines, with the United Kingdom to follow from 2026, Mr Marles confirmed. This will further strengthen Australia’s experience with SSNs in Western Australia, he said.

As early as 2027, HMAS Stirling will host the rotational presence of UK and US nuclear-powered submarines. This initiative, known as ‘Submarine Rotational Force-West’ (SRF-West), will develop Australia’s ability to operate, maintain and safely steward future SSNs by deploying local Navy personnel on visiting UK and US boats where they will gain at-sea experience with naval nuclear propulsion.

Then, from the early 2030s, HMAS Stirling will house Australia’s first sovereign SSN capability – the US Virginia class submarines.

Upgrades to HMAS Stirling over the next 10 years will include wharf upgrades, operational maintenance, logistics and training facilities, as well as opportunities for supporting infrastructure outside HMAS Stirling.

Additionally, 500 direct jobs will be created to sustain the SRF-West initiative over the period 2027-2032, Mr Marles said.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan said growing WA’s defence industry represented an enormous opportunity to diversify the state’s economy and build the workforce of the future.

“This investment to support Australia’s defence capabilities will create thousands of local jobs for Western Australians – and we’ll work with the Federal Government to deliver the training and development to put local workers in the box seat for these jobs,” the Premier said.

“HMAS Stirling is inextricably linked to my local community in Rockingham, and this investment will ensure Stirling continues to deliver tangible benefits to our State.”

WA Minister for Defence Industry, Paul Papalia said the WA Government will work with the Federal Government to develop a skills and training program, leveraging existing relationships with WA vocational and tertiary institutions.

“The WA Government has long been a proponent of more defence industry investment in our state and we are encouraged by what this announcement means for Western Australia,” said Minister Papalia.

“Maintenance work on visiting UK and U.S. submarines will see hundreds of Australians employed to provide support and the sheer scale of infrastructure we will need to home port our future submarines, not to mention to host submarines that are visiting or on rotation, will be a boost for our local industry.

“Typically, about 70% of these Defence programs are spent on sustainment. That’s potentially tens of billions of dollars which will go into the economy and WA will get its fair share. We don’t even know exactly how many jobs this will eventually create. But it’s safe to say it will be in the thousands.”

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