Australia’s N-subs approved, as Bechtel joins support consortium


US Congress has reportedly approved the transfer of three Virginia-class submarines – two existing vessels and one new vessel – to Australia, paving the way for nuclear powered submarines to join the RAN fleet.

Both houses have now passed the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorises the transfer which will see Virginia submarines cover any capability gap with the retirement of the Collins class.

The Act also exempts Australia and the United Kingdom from US defence export control licensing and adds Australia and the United Kingdom to the US Defense Production Act, according to reports.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said: “We are on the precipice of historic reform that will transform our ability to effectively deter, innovate, and operate together.”

With nuclear submarines on the way, engineering group Bechtel has joined previously aligned submarine infrastructure provider Babcock Australasia and US submarine constructor Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) to support the submarine effort.

Babcock, Bechtel Australia and HII have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will identify opportunities to support the required nuclear-powered submarine programme from infrastructure build through to the end of life of the submarines.

The three companies will work together to identify ways in which they can help to overcome short and long-term challenges required to deliver Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines including:

  • Skilled workforce development
  • Nuclear infrastructure design and build
  • Submarine defueling and decommissioning
  • And nuclear waste and material management.

Collectively, Babcock, Bechtel Australia and HII have more than 150 years of experience supporting the UK, USA and Australian submarine fleets.

Bechtel Australia Public Infrastructure Managing Director Dr Richard Freer said: “Skilled workforce development is one of the biggest challenges that the AUKUS enterprise must overcome, and it is great to see industry working together and in close concert with Australian universities and state and federal governments to find ways to help close the future skills gap.

“Babcock, Bechtel Australia and HII collectively bring insights and experience across all aspects of nuclear submarine engineering and construction, and by working together through this MOU we can help develop optimised solutions based on more strategic thinking to the AUKUS resource and infrastructure challenges.”

Cavendish Nuclear, a wholly owned subsidiary of Babcock International Group, and Bechtel have an established track record of successfully working together at Sellafield, the UK’s oldest nuclear storage facility.

Further reading:
Players line up for AUKUS as Huntington Ingalls bets on Australia

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