The affair with the cancellation of the contract for the supply of new submarines from France for the Australian Navy continues. The United States, which was supposed to replace France in the supply of submarines, is now in trouble, and producing submarines for Australia would be too much of a burden for them. Due to a lack of labor and spare parts, shipyards are in a slump with production for the US Navy, and according to experts, the US will not compromise its own defense requirements because of the agreement with Australia. The Nikkei agency informs about it, for example.
The new Australia-UK-US Defense Cooperation Agreement (AUKUS) was the reason Australia gave up French submarines a year ago. It signed a contract with France for their delivery already in 2016. As part of the security group with Great Britain and the USA, however, Australia was given the opportunity to acquire American nuclear-powered submarines and an agreement to purchase French diesel submarines worth 40 billion dollars (850 billion crowns), so for canceled the great misunderstanding of Paris.
However, due to overloaded British and American shipyards due to a shortage of shipyard workers such as foundries or molders, the delivery date of the submarines could be pushed back. According to the latest reports, it will not be possible to deliver submarines to Canberra within ten years, as stated in the AUKUS agreement. A report by the US Congressional Research Service from August 2022 shows that the US is having difficulty meeting its own requirements for nuclear submarines. The U.S. Virginia-class nuclear submarine program has seen costs rise and is suffering from a lack of spare parts in addition to labor shortages. According to US Navy Rear Admiral Scott Pappano, executive officer of the Strategic Submarine Program, producing submarines for Australia would jeopardize the US’s own nuclear submarine program. “If we wanted to add more submarine design to our industrial base, it would be detrimental to us at this point without significant investment available to provide additional capabilities, capabilities,” he said.
According to Pappano, US submarine production is expected to be five times higher in 2025 than in 2020, with two Virginia-class submarines produced annually, and the new Virginia Block V variant to be introduced. In addition, the US is phasing out its older models Ohio submarines, which will be replaced by Columbia-class submarines, the first of which should enter service in 2027. The twelve Columbia submarines will thus replace the fourteen Ohio submarines that the Navy has used since 1976.
According to Professor Tetsu Kotani, the mass decommissioning of submarines opens a dangerous gap in capabilities for conducting submarine warfare. According to him, the total number of submarines will decrease due to decommissioning, because it is unlikely that they will be able to catch up with their production. Even according to Kotani, it is very likely that the US will not allow Australia’s request for nuclear submarines to jeopardize its own defense requirements.
According to military analyst Brent Sadler, Australia could invest in a U.S. submarine supplier base, which would increase the U.S.’s ability to supply nuclear submarines for AUKUS, while not jeopardizing its own submarine program. However, due to capacity limitations in the US and Great Britain, Australia will probably have to keep its Collins submarines in service longer than planned. According to analysts, it could consider the temporary use of unmanned submarines to fill gaps in submarine forces.
Australia established a new pact with the US and Great Britain in September 2021, when it canceled the agreement on the purchase of French submarines. French officials at the time spoke of betrayal and damage to Australian-French relations.