Britain’s new nuclear submarines will be operational from the late 2030s, replacing the current Astute Class.

James Cartlidge MP, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, stated:

“The Royal Navy’s submersible ship nuclear AUKUS submarines will be operational from the late 2030s, replacing the current Astute Class.”

The SSN-AUKUS submarine: A brief guide

AUKUS, as a defence and security partnership, was launched in September 2021. This tri-nation agreement displays the collective aim of Australia, the UK, and the US to uphold peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Beyond just a defence pact, AUKUS epitomises the three nations’ commitment to technology exchange, security collaborations, and a unified stance against emerging global threats.

The Origins of the SSN-AUKUS

The cornerstone of the AUKUS agreement is the provision for Australia to procure its first-ever conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

While Australia has operated submarines before, transitioning to a nuclear-powered fleet marks a significant advance, and this is where the SSN-AUKUS, also referred to as the SSN-A in the UK, comes into play.

This submarine design is set to be a next-generation wonder, drawing heavily from the UK’s forthcoming submarine designs and further bolstered by technology contributions from all three member nations. Notably, the integration of advanced US submarine technologies, which have long been leaders in undersea warfare, is a key feature.

Features and Capabilities

While specific details are classified, certain overarching capabilities of the SSN-AUKUS are evident:

  • Design: It will be based on the UK’s next-generation submarine design, integrating cutting-edge technological contributions from the US and Australia.
  • Weapons & Surveillance: The SSN-AUKUS will feature a standard vertical launch system, paired with advanced weapon systems. Its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities will be unparalleled, integrating both human-operated and AI-enhanced systems.
  • Interoperability: A chief objective of this initiative is flawless interoperability amongst the naval assets of the three nations. The design, enriched with elements from all three nations, will facilitate streamlined joint naval operations.
  • Propulsion and Range: Utilising nuclear propulsion technologies, the submarine will possess extended operational ranges and lengthier durations submerged, outstripping conventional diesel-electric submarines.

Production Timeline and UK Industrial Implications

While construction on the SSN-AUKUS is earmarked to commence by 2030, the roadmap leading up to this point is progressively materialising.

The UK anticipates the first submarines of this class to be operational by the late 2030s, with Australia following suit in the early 2040s. However, in the meantime, Australia will not be left without advanced submarine capabilities. The US, subject to Congressional approval, has pledged to supply Australia with three Virginia-class SSNs, potentially followed by two more.

What does it mean for UK industry?

In line with the current Astute and Dreadnought programmes, the UK’s SSN-AUKUS submarines will be constructed by BAE Systems at Barrow-in-Furness, with the nuclear propulsion components fabricated at Rolls Royce in Derby. As highlighted above, Rolls Royce will also be responsible for producing all the nuclear reactors for Australia’s submarines.

The programme is forecasted to generate thousands of jobs in the UK. Given the anticipated logistical challenges arising from the concurrent construction of the Dreadnought and SSN-AUKUS, as well as the additional capacity necessitated by the US Virginia class SSN programme, specific opportunities will be earmarked for the Australian industry to engage in the SSN-AUKUS supply chain.

By doing this, it will “alleviate stress on the supply chains of the UK and the US, tap into the existing strengths of Australian suppliers, and bolster their capacity in the run-up to the onset of Australia’s build programme”.

These opportunities are likely to concentrate on essential components where Australia has showcased industrial proficiency, such as pressure hull steel, valves, pumps, batteries, switchboards, lighting, and additive manufacturing. Interestingly, no UK suppliers are currently equipped to provide the specialised steel necessary for the fabrication of submarine pressure hulls. The specialised steel required for the Dreadnought SSBN, for instance, is currently sourced from a French supplier.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Jim
Jim (@guest_816019)
24 days ago

I’m increasingly against this program if the reports from the US navies AUKUS program office are correct that it is to have an American reactor with an American combat management system and it’s open to debate if it will be able to fire British torpedos. (Their words not mine) Given US government officials especially those linked to defence contractors ability to spout s**t for no reason those reports in defense news may be inaccurate but still it’s worrying. If that is the case we are giving up our best world leading military capability for a few quid from Australia and… Read more »

Marked
Marked (@guest_816028)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Sod relying on the US. Everything is one way with them. Unless they stand to gain something they’ll just mess us around.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_816035)
24 days ago
Reply to  Marked

I was under the impression that the reactors for the UK and Aus subs will be British? The US subs might be all of majority US, I don’t know? It’s going to be a three way effort but yes that doesn’t mean it’s a neat 33.33r each. Hope the UK gets in on some torpedo sales to Aus and even the US!
Late 2030s, jeeze, we need to get through 2024 and the late 20s first! Pity they can’t build some extra evolved Astute in the mean time.

Hugo
Hugo (@guest_816036)
24 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Barrow is totally full, until Dreadnoughts are finished there won’t be more SSNs

Mark P
Mark P (@guest_816044)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

I get the impression that the UK could possibly get more than seven AUKUS subs to replace the seven Astute as the reduced cost of scale of production AUKUS compered to the Astute’s?

Hugo
Hugo (@guest_816052)
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark P

That’s the hope at least, haven’t had the opportunity to export a submarine design before this point.

Mark P
Mark P (@guest_816111)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

I suppose the four Upholder class sold to Canada in 1994 is a bit different as they bought the hole class and not just the design

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub (@guest_816079)
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark P

It would at least be nice to think that the new subs will be available before Astute is retired.

Mark P
Mark P (@guest_816110)
24 days ago

Considering Agamemnon and Agincourt are still in BAE’s build hall at Barrow-in-farness that should give them 30 yrs to get on with it, still in recent years that seems to be a challenge.

Jim
Jim (@guest_816050)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

There will eventually be more if the build rate is increased. The UK has stated it’s looking at getting up to 12 -15 SSN AUKUS. Massive increases in the work force at Barrow are already underway and will speed things up but it will take years. We may get additional SSN-A boats coming out of the yard before the last Astutes are being retired bearing in mind the last Astute is two years away from being built and 32 years away from leaving service. That basically means that we need to build four SSBN and 8 SSN-A in 30 years… Read more »

Mike
Mike (@guest_816262)
23 days ago
Reply to  Jim

I grew up in Barrow between 1964 and 1974 where my father was one of the senior dockside test engineers. Between 1962 and 1973 Vickers ( Not BAE or VSEL) built 4 Valiants, 3 SSBN’s and Swiftsure and had started Sovereign and Superb . In addition Invincible was being built from the early 1970 plus Sheffield. These were in addition to building Sultzers diesels for British Rail , export orders for Brazil ( Oberon Class SSK’s) and Corvettes for Iran. Building 12 boats in 30 years would be possible provided there is political will and BAE don’t cock it up.… Read more »

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816054)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

👍🏻

Linny
Linny (@guest_816087)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

I wouldn’t worry about room barrow shipyard will make the room available.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_816092)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

Aren’t they working on expanding Barrow?

Jim
Jim (@guest_816048)
24 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

I was under the same impression about the SSN A until Dan Packer the director of the USN AUKUS office said this below on defense news.com “Packer said the SSN-A would use the American combat system, a version of which Australia already uses on its Collins-class conventionally powered submarines. But there are ongoing discussions over whether the boat would use just the American torpedo Australia also buys, or whether it could also launch a separate British torpedo.” This dipshit of a US politician/civil servant previously stated in the same article that the boat would use a US reactor and steam… Read more »

Bleak Mouse
Bleak Mouse (@guest_816153)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

I think it’s just the Australian version that will use the American combat system and fire American torpedo’s. Both the Aussie and British version will use reactors built by RR, but with the Yanks involved anything could happen, plus the Aussies could screw things up too, who knows??

Jon
Jon (@guest_816189)
23 days ago
Reply to  Bleak Mouse

Unfortunately, that’s not what’s making the press. The Yanks are saying we will also use American systems. As the Americans won’t be buying SSNAs, it’s money leaving UK for the US that would have gone to the UK otherwise, balanced by Aus money, some of which will come to the UK. Coupled with loss of sovereign design and build capability.

I hope this is wrong.

Mark L
Mark L (@guest_816259)
23 days ago
Reply to  Jim

You are right, it will be just like the F35. No UK access to the CMS source code, if we want any UK specific changes (like Spearfish control) the US will charge hundreds of millions and not incorporate them for ten years.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816053)
24 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

There cannot be any more SSN till post Dreadnought, Barrow is bulging. If Cameloon had ordered the 8th the build rate would have been quicker. It had to be slowed down otherwise there would have been another gap and that would have been a disaster. As for an evolved Astute it’s now an old design and uses a PWR2 reactor that is no longer produced and it’s impossible to build anymore. The new Dreadnought and SSN(A) designs both use the newer PWR3 which is too big for the Astutes hull. Just remember that these new boats will have US VLS… Read more »

Cripes
Cripes (@guest_816060)
24 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Is the PWR3 really bigger then the PWR2? – I thought it was the other way round?

As I understood it, the Astute had to be redesigned at considerable cost and dela, to fit PWR2, hence the big bulge in the body. The PWR3 then under devrlopment was said to be smaller and able to fit inside the original design, leading to the obvious question, why not wait for PWR3 then?

My recollection could well be wrong!

Last edited 24 days ago by Cripes
Jim
Jim (@guest_816067)
24 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

At one point there was a mooted possibility that Astute 8 would use PWR 3. It was stated at the time that the reactors had similar dimensions.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816149)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Not by anyone sensible it wouldn’t as PWR3 requires a larger diameter hull hence Dreadnought being just over 1m wider.
Go on quote your source ?

Jim
Jim (@guest_816174)
23 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

There are a number of reasons Dreadnaught is wider, primarily for noise reduction.

But it was only speculation at the time of astute 8 having PWR 3, there was never an official release and no one knows much if anything about PWR 3 vs PWR 2 on here on any where else online given how secret it is.

All the news article carrying it are now gone, Think Defence carried articles on it at the time but it was largely speculation.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816146)
24 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

It’s bigger, hence the larger hull diameter for the Dreadnought and SSN(A).

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_816094)
24 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

It’s a three way deal. They’ll be jostling for content but let’s hope the UK gets its fair share of it and not bullied into less by the US particularly. If Britain’s torpedos or anything are actually better then hopefully Aus will go for that and vice versa. The US suppliers can’t expect to win everything and Aus probably has some very good tech it would want be adopted too. The combat system, should able to fire both torpedos from day one, same like on the P-8s!

Last edited 24 days ago by Quentin D63
Jon
Jon (@guest_816190)
23 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

As the US isn’t buying these subs, why should the US suppliers even be on an even footing?

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816057)
24 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

FYI all modern USN boats contain some British components.

Jim
Jim (@guest_816070)
24 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Surely not, you will be telling me next that we were running around with pump jet propulsors while the US and Russian didn’t get them until the late 90’s.

It’s clearly stated that every bit of UK defence tech and especially nuclear weapons and submarines are all given to us by the generosity of our American overlords and the UK contributes nothing.

I read that in here many times.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816150)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

BS !

Colin
Colin (@guest_816040)
24 days ago
Reply to  Marked

Agree wholeheartedly with this

MrSatyre
MrSatyre (@guest_816172)
24 days ago
Reply to  Marked

Pity the US doesn’t have a patent on that sort of behavior.

James Fennell
James Fennell (@guest_816140)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

It will have a US combat management system, and what this guy is speaking about is the integration of Spearfish with that system. To some degree that depends on whether we build oour own new torpedo, which I am pretty sure is funded, and if we do we will insist that the combat management system integrates it. There may end up with some differences between the British and Australian variant if they do not integrate our torpedo.

richard
richard (@guest_816236)
23 days ago
Reply to  Jim

It has already been announced that Rolls Royce will be manufacturing the reactors for all the U.K. and Australian Aukus submarines in Derby . They have planning permission to expand their Derby factory and are recruiting several hundred more workers

PaulW
PaulW (@guest_816032)
24 days ago

So the sell off and deconstruction of our steel industry was not a good idea. Discuss!

Concerned
Concerned (@guest_816047)
24 days ago
Reply to  PaulW

Port Talbot was costing tata 1 million a day to operate and that’s just one plant (albeit a bigger one). Better of importing it then spending a fortune on subsidies.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816055)
24 days ago
Reply to  PaulW

It was inevitable after they were privatised, we just can’t make it as cheaply as others. From what I know Australia makes very good steel, in fact when the Collins were built the only bits rejected on AC grounds were Swedish.

Jim
Jim (@guest_816072)
24 days ago
Reply to  PaulW

The issue is the different types of steel required, the varieties and quantities. Even the USA has to buy steel from the UK for parts of its submarines from forge master in Sheffield.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816154)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Nope they actually buy a finished product !

Jim
Jim (@guest_816175)
23 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Yes, steel castings which require extreme tolerances in their manufacture. Hence not even the USA can make everything in an SSN.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816041)
24 days ago

US and Australian Politicians plus unnamed US Government officials close to Defence contractors ! What a combination of BS producers and anyone who actually swallows that is a bloody fool. Of course the RAN SSN(A) will have US weapons, CMS, software and probably sensors. But the simple fact is that if the US had the capacity to supply the RAN with US built SSNs in the required timescale AUKUS wouldn’t even exist. But they don’t and have had to accept that they never will have, in fact if you read the USN BFSAR you will understand why. Over the period… Read more »

Jim
Jim (@guest_816076)
24 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

It’s not an unnamed US government official it’s Dan Packer who is the Director of AUKUS for the US Commander of Submarine forces speaking at a public event on record. On giving up our ability to make our own torpedos, why not just give up on our ability to make any defence equipment. What is the point in spending $60 billion a year on defence, if Donald Trump and his puppy killing base can just turn round and tell you your cut off. I’m happy for the UK to invest billion in its submarine forces, they are truly world class.… Read more »

GR
GR (@guest_816088)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

It would cause a huge political headache to cut off the SSN-AUKUS program and leave two key allies in a time of rising tensions high and dry.

Anomalies like Trump and Marjory Taylor Greene aside, I doubt the Republicans are that stupid and in any case tend to have more affection towards Britain than the woke Democrats and their obsession with anti-colonialism.

Jim
Jim (@guest_816120)
24 days ago
Reply to  GR

It’s not Trump or MTG that concerns me it’s the fact that 50% of Americans are actively supporting them that’s got me a bit worried.

john fedup
john fedup (@guest_816776)
20 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Agree, 50% supporting these fools is the bigger concern and most will continue this support even if Trump becomes a convicted criminal. You can’t fix stupid.

Grizzler
Grizzler (@guest_816198)
23 days ago
Reply to  GR

When it comes to Americans it won’t matter what affection they purportedly have towards The British ( & I doubt its as much as some would have you believe) – it will always be about whats best for good Ol’ Uncle Sam.
We need to enure we protect our industry and skills in the same way as Uncle Sam would-once gone gone for good!
If we were to lose significant skills through this ‘agreement’ then I wouldn’t lose any sleep if we pulled out- although not sure if even that would be feasible tbh.

FOSTERSMAN
FOSTERSMAN (@guest_816090)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

All very true.
That’s the risk you take when you buy American, all their defence products link back into the American economy and lines the pockets of Congress members who are “sponsored” by LM, Boeing etc.
I am all for buying US hardware but not at the expense of British jobs and knowhow. The biggest risk to me is the knowledge drain this creates in industry/research, once you lose that seat you’re not getting invited back to that table in the UN due to becoming a defacto vassal state of America.

Jim
Jim (@guest_816122)
24 days ago
Reply to  FOSTERSMAN

Yes, I would rather go the French route, buy some US equipment for niche roles but focus on producing all major systems at home even if it’s necessary to accept reductions in capability. While collaborating with other similar sized countries like Germany, Japan and France to develop weapons and platforms that can be truly joint programs.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816156)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

I’m just saying it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the end of the line.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF (@guest_816282)
23 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

If media reports are substantially correct re design trades at the component level, will PWR-3 (SSN-A) be significantly different from PWR-3 (Dreadnought)? Dunno, am an outsider, but could envision numerous potential complications (schedule, cost, reliability, maintainability, availability, oh hell, all the ‘ilities). 🤔😳😱🙄

DeeBee
DeeBee (@guest_816096)
24 days ago

Anyone know how many were getting, also I thought the Astute class would be in service for longer than 2030, especially as 1 or 2 are still under construction?

Hugo
Hugo (@guest_816118)
24 days ago
Reply to  DeeBee

The newest astutes will serve past 2030 and probably 2040, but HMS Astute will need refuelling by 2035

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816161)
24 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

That is dependant on usage, but 25 years would be about a sensible target.

Jon
Jon (@guest_816194)
23 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

Refuelling Vanguard caused a significant delay (several years) in the building of PWR3s for Dreadnought, because RR couldn’t work both PWR2 and PWR3 at the same time. So if they are flat out building PWR3s for SSNA, they can’t refuel Astute.

Hugo
Hugo (@guest_816200)
23 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Does refuelling involve replacing the whole core? Didn’t we have to refuel the Trafalgars at some point? Don’t think we were making their cores anymore.

Jon
Jon (@guest_816272)
23 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

Yes, T’s were designed to be refuelled, A’s weren’t. V’s got an early, planned replacement H core (PWR-2) the same as the Astutes would get, so not designed for refuelling. Many sources talked about refuelling Vanguard’s H core, and some about spending £150m more on new equipment to ensure that the other Vanguards could “be refuelled” too, if necessary. However sources I tend to trust more phrased it differently, referring to a second replacement core. This made more sense to me given the logic of why the “refuelling” happened in the first place. The Dounray test core developed microfractures. How… Read more »

Jim
Jim (@guest_816124)
24 days ago
Reply to  DeeBee

Astute will serve well int to the 2050’s, figures mentioned for the UK number of SSN-A would be for a fleet of 12 to 15 in RN service with 8 in Australian service.

DeeBee
DeeBee (@guest_816131)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Ok thanks, 12 – 15 subs would be great, especially given the current climate.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816158)
24 days ago
Reply to  DeeBee

If you actually believe Jim you may as well patiently wait for Santa on Xmas Eve.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_816157)
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Source ?

Jim
Jim (@guest_816176)
23 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

The Guardian.

John
John (@guest_816115)
24 days ago

If people actually woke up and realised the one sided nature of any involvement with the US on anything? They would realise what they actually are.

jjsmallpiece
jjsmallpiece (@guest_816181)
23 days ago

One of the problems Barrow has is its location. Nobody wants to live in the area – its on a 30mile cul de sac. So transport/travel time is slow to / from BiF.
The shipyard is boxed in by the surrounding shops and town.

If you had the choice again, you wouldn’t build submarines at Barrow. Liverpool is a much better location. More room to expand to increase the build rate. A larger work force/population close buy to recruit from.

Still it will see me through to pension time in the not too distant future.

Fen Tiger
Fen Tiger (@guest_816338)
22 days ago
Reply to  jjsmallpiece

Last Submarine built at Cam.Lairds in 1992? Is it the “nuclear” tag’ that prevented further builds’?

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_816273)
23 days ago

Between 2030 and 2039 goes quite the distance.