US submarine might on show as Australia plans ahead
The US Navy has shown off its submarine fleet's nuclear capability and firepower as Australian ministers, Royal Australian Navy brass and diplomats plan for the future.
Australia's head of nuclear submarine capability, nuclear-powered submarine taskforce, Rear Admiral Matt Buckley, joined US submarine group commander Rear Admiral Rick Seif aboard USS Asheville on Wednesday, along with federal ministers and diplomats.
Rear Admiral Buckley said during a day-long tour of the attack submarine that Australia would need to send crews overseas for training before its US nuclear-powered submarines arrived in 2033.
Six officers were already undertaking naval nuclear training at US and UK facilities and hundreds more will follow as the navy races to prepare to operate and maintain the nuclear reactors in the Virginia class of submarines.
"Over the next decade or so we'll be training our officers and sailors at nuclear power school in the US at Charleston but also at the equivalent school in the UK," Rear Admiral Buckley told AAP aboard the sub.
He said the exact number of submariners who could be trained at the US and UK facilities was still being worked out.
"Obviously we need to balance that with some folks going to the UK and some to the US," he said.
"I expect early on slightly more numbers in the US given the Virginias will be the first (nuclear-powered) submarines that we operate."
The Australian navy would aim to build its own naval nuclear propulsion training facility in the 2030s, but details for the model were yet to be worked out.
"Clearly we've got a bit of work to do on exactly how that's going to be scaled, how we do it, but that's certainly our intent," he said.
Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh, Northern Australia Minister Madeleine King and RAN Head of Navy Engineering Rear Admiral Rachel Durbin joined on the ride out of Fremantle as plans to boost Australia's future naval training and workforce unfold.
Rear Admiral Buckley said WA, where the nation's submarine school is based, was likely to be a strong contender as a location.
But details about whether the navy will favour a university partnership or keep the training in-house are yet to be worked out.
About 3300 nuclear-trained submariners would be required by the 2050s when Australia will take ownership of the new generation of UK-built AUKUS class submarines, he said.
UK Consul-General in WA Tina Redshaw and UK High Commissioner Victoria Treadell also joined.