Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia is on the cusp of a “new dawn” for its defence policy on the eve of his announcement of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine plan.
Mr Albanese briefly spoke to reporters in San Diego, California on Monday morning Australian time as he took a bayside walk with chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice-Admiral Mark Hammond.
“It’s a new dawn in San Diego and a new dawn tomorrow for Australia’s defence policy tomorrow,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Albanese will unveil details of the much-anticipated, and controversial, acquisition of nuclear submarines alongside US President Joe Bidena and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego on Tuesday morning Australian time.
Reports published late last week suggested Australia would buy between three and five Virginia class submarines from the US by the 2030s, before moving to a British designed submarine with heavy use of US technology as a longer term solution.
It is speculated that the “pathway” to nuclear-powered submarines will unroll over three stages and two decades at a cost of around $100 billion.
The shift will likely begin with the deployment of American submarines by 2027, the Wall Street Journal reported, likely in Perth and then Port Kembla in New South Wales.
Australia would then acquire up to five Virginia-class submarines which would begin operating from 2032 while construction of a modified British-designed submarine continued through the next decade.
How and where they are constructed has not been confirmed, but South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said he expected at least some of the submarines to be built in Adelaide.
It is expected that Australian crew will rotate through US and UK nuclear submarines to increase interoperability, as well as Australian navy personnel studying at US nuclear facilities and colleges to increase their skills.
The AUKUS agreement will also accelerate the acquisition of guided weapons.