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The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Australia of AUKUS Pillar I-related training and training devices and related equipment, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 1 December 2023.

AUKUS Pillar I is the initiative to help Australia acquire, build, and maintain nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) under a trilateral pact that also involves the United Kingdom.

The FMS, estimated to be worth up to USD 2.0 Bn (EUR 1.86 Bn), was passed to the US Congress for final approval.

“The sale will advance the AUKUS trilateral agreement by providing the equipment to train Royal Australian Navy crews in areas such as submarine navigation, communications, ship control, and other capabilities,” the DSCA stated. “Additionally, it will also provide the means to train select Australian civilians and contractors at United States Naval Shipyards. This trained workforce will grow Australia’s submarine capability, which is expected to ultimately incorporate technologies from all three AUKUS partner nations.”

Under AUKUS Pillar I Australia is buying a USD 2 Bn training package from the United States under an FMS deal. (Image: BAE Systems)

Specifically included in the deal are training devices, personnel training, planning, and non-recurring engineering (NRE) services; support equipment; special tools; training software and courseware; design; supply chain and industrial base support; facilities and construction support; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; test and trials support; studies and surveys; other related elements of engineering and repair services for associated equipment and programme support; and other related elements of logistic and programme support.

The first stage of the AUKUS programme involves US Navy and Royal Navy SSNs increasingly conducting port visits to Australia. The second part of the plan includes the sale of three US Virginia-class SSNs to Australia in the early 2030s, with the possibility of another two boats to be sold if required.

Finally, the three nations will collaborate to build a new class of SSN-AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines. These SSNs, based on the British next-generation SNN(R) submarine design that is due to replace the Royal Navy’s Astute-class SSNs, will possess US technology and become the future SSNs operated by both Australia and the United Kingdom. The UK boats will be delivered to the Royal Navy in the late 2030s, while the Royal Australian Navy will receive its submarines in the early 2040s.