Analysis and Commentary

BAE Systems Australia – the company that could build our AUKUS submarines

Analysis and Commentary

By Peter Roberts

BAE Systems Australia has batted off suggestions it will bid to construct nuclear powered submarines in Adelaide under the AUKUS deal.

The company already operates a new shipyard built by the federal government at Osborne in Adelaide where it is constructing Hunter class frigates for the RAN, as well as a capable yard at Henderson in Western Australia.

And crucially it is the constructor building UK’s nuclear powered fleet Barrow-in-Furness, a port town in Cumbria, England.

Under the AUKUS agreement US nuclear submarines will first rotate through Australia, then Australia will operate three US Virginia class boats from the 2030s, and finally Australia will construct eight nuclear powered submarines to a new design in the 2040s.

The new design, dubbed SSN-AUKUS, will be built in the UK and Australia, suggesting BAE may be in the box seat to construct Australia’s vessels.

However a spokeswoman for BAE Systems Australia this morning declined to comment on whether the company would tender to build the vessels, dubbed SSN-AUKUS.

She said: “This is a question for the Department of Defence.”

However construction in Adelaide by BAE does seem a possible, even probable option, as a single company building similar vessels in the UK and Australia would smooth technology sharing, support training needs and allow shipyards in Australia and the UK to supply each other with components and vessel sections.

Like its counterparts in the US, manufacturing capacity at Barrow has become an issue for the UK, with a new yard in Adelaide potentially easing those pressures.

No doubt such ideas have preoccupied BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan who was recently promoted to a role as Group Managing Director of Business Development in London.

Costigan is highly regarded within the global group, having secured a $35 billion deal to construct Hunter class frigates at a new yard built by the federal government at Osborne in Adelaide, and grown BAE Systems Australia from 3,000 to 5,000 staff.

The government’s Australian Naval Infrastructure began constructing a new submarine shipyard at Osborne, only to pause the project with the cancellation of the contract with France’s Naval Group to build conventionally powered vessels at the site.

BAE Systems in the UK is delivering seven Astute Class hunter killer submarines for the UK, four of which are in-service with the Royal Navy, building Dreadnought class ballistic missile submarines, and working on designs for the future submarine programme.

Further reading:

Picture: Osborne Naval Dockyard, Adelaide

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