Submarine workers depart for AUKUS training at Pearl Harbor

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Image credit: Department of Defence

In a significant milestone for the AUKUS partnership, the first group of skilled submarine workers from ASC Pty Ltd has departed for Pearl Harbor, United States, for comprehensive sustainment training.

This initial cohort of around 30 workers will receive hands-on training in the maintenance of US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines.

The group, comprising mechanical fitters, electricians, as well as electrical, mechanical, and safety engineers, will work alongside their US counterparts at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

The training marks a crucial step in equipping Australian workers with the expertise needed to build, operate, and sustain future nuclear-powered submarines, the government said in a media release.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles highlighted the importance of this initiative, stating, “This is another exciting step when it comes to developing the workforce we need for the AUKUS program which presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australians to take advantage of unique and exciting education, training, and career development programs, both here and overseas.”

These placements underscore the strong collaboration within the AUKUS partnership. In March, the Albanese Government selected ASC as a strategic partner in the sustainment and joint build of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia.

This partnership begins with the sustainment of the Virginia class and will be followed by the build and sustainment of Australia’s SSN-AUKUS submarines.

More than 100 Australian shipyard workers from ASC are expected to depart for naval propulsion training at Pearl Harbor by mid-2025.

Upon completing their overseas training, which combines classroom learning with on-the-job experience, these workers will assume key roles in Western Australia as part of Submarine Rotational Force-West.

They will lead the sustainment of rotating US and UK nuclear-powered submarines and train other ASC workers through their leadership roles.

“These highly skilled workers already have decades of combined submarine experience having sustained our Collins class submarines and now have the opportunity to be upskilled by our US counterparts in sustaining nuclear-powered submarines,” added Marles.

“Such unique education and training opportunities for Australian workers reflect the rock-solid commitment of our US and UK partners to our nation-building AUKUS program.”

One UK Astute class submarine and up to four US Virginia-class submarines will participate in the rotational presence through Submarine Rotational Force-West.

ASC employees, with their extensive experience in maintaining Australia’s Collins class submarines, will continue to play a critical role as Australia transitions to its future nuclear-powered submarine capability.

All activities by Australian personnel in the US or the UK will adhere to Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations, including non-proliferation commitments.

“Such unique education and training opportunities for Australian workers reflect the rock-solid commitment of our US and UK partners to our nation-building AUKUS program,” concluded Marles.