On September 16 2021, the Australian government announced that the first AUKUS initiative will be Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarine technology, drawing on the many years of experience of the United States and Britain – “Within the framework of AUKUS, three countries will immediately focus on identifying the optimal delivery routes for at least eight nuclear submarines for the Australian Navy.”
At the same time, the Australian government refused to continue the program to construct non-nuclear submarines with the French shipbuilding association Naval Group. Under this program, it was supposed to build 12 submarines. The total amount of the contract was about $ 66 billion. So, it is clear why France is so upset. It turns out that the United States and Britain stole a fat piece from France right from under their noses, as well as their NATO allies.
Let’s analyze the technical and cost aspects of the issue. As far as technical characteristics are concerned, nuclear submarines are undoubtedly superior to non-nuclear ones; these are military technologies of a higher level.
The Australian government wrote, “Nuclear submarines do not have the same limitations that conventional submarines face in terms of armament, speed and cruising range. They can remain completely submerged in water for many months, limiting their ability to be detected by opponents. As a country with three oceans, Australia needs access to state-of-the-art subsea technology. As a nation, we are ready to take a step towards using the most advanced subsea technology available to protect Australia and its national interests.”
The question of the cost of submarines is also very interesting. Australia had signed up for building 12 submarines with France for 66 billion dollars. That is, one non-nuclear sub would cost about $ 5.5 billion.
For comparison, the US Navy, under a contract dated December 2 2019, ordered 10 Virginia-class multipurpose nuclear submarines of the Block V modification for $ 24.097 billion. Accordingly, the cost of building one such submarine is about $ 2.4 billion.
There is an opinion that Australia will focus on the project for the construction of American Virginia class nuclear submarines. Design changes are possible. Some experts argue that the nuclear power plant on the Australian nuclear submarines will be British.
Thus, one French-made non-nuclear submarine for Australia would cost two US-made nuclear submarines. The cost in the contract with the French shipbuilding association Naval Group was clearly overstated.