Australia to build additional submarine base to bolster its efforts under AUKUS pact

A new submarine base will be built on the east coast of Australia to support the nation’s new nuclear-powered submarines, providing deployment opportunities in both the Indian and Pacific oceans, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed.

Following the review of 19 potential sites, the Australian Department of Defence has selected three preferred locations, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Port Kembla.

The locations were selected on submarine basing criteria, which included access to exercise operating areas, proximity to industrial infrastructure, and significant population centers to support personnel and recruitment. 

The new Future Navy Base will add capacity and capability to Fleet Base West in Western Australia, home of the Australian Navy’s Collins-class submarines, which will also receive significant funding to support Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines, according to the officials.

The Department of Defence estimated that more than $10 billion will be needed for facility and infrastructure requirements to transition from Collins to the future nuclear-powered submarines, including the new east coast submarine base.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to establish an east coast submarine base has been underway for many years and would enhance Australia’s strategic deterrent capability in the Pacific Ocean.

“Australia faces a difficult and dangerous security environment and we must continue to invest in growing the capability of our ADF to ensure we keep Australians safe,” he emphasized.

“Under our AUKUS partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom we will have access to the best technology in the world to support our efforts to deter threats against our national interest in the Indo-Pacific.”

“Our investments will also flow into our operations in Western Australia, with significant funding flowing to upgrade facilities there for our future submarines and to support our allies in the United States and United Kingdom.”

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said the Australian Defence Force had not constructed a major new base since Robertson Barracks in the 1990s, and an extensive process would now begin.

“We took the important decision in 2021 to pursue nuclear-powered submarines with the support of our American and British partners, in response to the changing strategic environment. With the ability to operate from both coasts, this will make our nuclear-powered submarines more responsive and resilient to meet the strategic environment.”

“Today’s announcement will ensure Australia has the infrastructure and facilities ready to support those submarines when they enter service,” Dutton pointed out.

Defence will engage with state and local governments to determine the optimal site, which will be informed by the ongoing work of the Nuclear Powered Submarine Taskforce. This initial work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

To remind, Australia, US and UK signed AUKUS pact back in September 2021. Under the new partnership, Australia wants to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. As of 8 February this year, the partners can exchange data under the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA).

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Photo: Illustration; Royal Australian Navy photo of Collins-class submarines underway off Western Australia