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Navy Nuclear Reactor Core

The Reactor Pressure Vessel aboard the STURGIS, the Army’s retired floating nuclear power plant being decommissioned, is carefully lifted in order to be placed in the specially designed shielded shipping container to its left at the end of May. Photo via U.S. Navy

AUKUS Powers Up: HII And Babcock Join Forces On Nuclear Projects

John Konrad
Total Views: 2216
July 19, 2023

by John Konrad (gCaptain) In a move signifying deepening cooperation within the Australia – United Kingdom – United States (AUKUS) alliance, defense industry titans Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) and Babcock International Group have unveiled plans for a strategic partnership. The collaboration aims to boost their nuclear decommissioning and construction capabilities across the United States and the United Kingdom, marking a critical step in the global defense landscape.

AUKUS was established in 2021 as a trilateral security pact, strengthening allied deterrence and defense capabilities in the volatile Indo-Pacific region. The key pillars of AUKUS are the development of conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy and the collaboration on advanced defense capabilities. There is also potential in the future for nuclear technology to be used in the effort to reduce carbon emissions in commercial shipping, if not by installing reactors aboard ships then possibly via nuclear generation of geen ammonia in ports.

The recent partnership between HII, America’s largest military shipbuilding company, and the UK’s Babcock International, a leading provider of engineering services, directly complements the AUKUS’s agenda. By working together on nuclear decommissioning contracts and exploring opportunities in civil nuclear operations, the companies aim to drive forward technology and information sharing, critical aspects of AUKUS’s second pillar.

As geopolitical dynamics continue to shift, these advanced capabilities become more crucial, particularly in the face of challenges posed by China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. AUKUS aims to counterbalance this with a robust show of integrated deterrence. The partnership between HII and Babcock exemplifies this effort, providing both U.K. and U.S. defense programs with enhanced nuclear resources and capabilities.

“We look forward to working with HII to realize the benefits that our collaboration can bring to the nuclear programs in the U.K., U.S. and beyond,” said David Lockwood, CEO of Babcock. His sentiment was echoed by HII’s president and CEO, Chris Kastner, who stressed the importance of this agreement in expanding their global presence.

While the collaboration between HII and Babcock appears to be a significant stride in defense capabilities, it will also offer opportunities for the AUKUS alliance in emerging technology. The intent is to boost development and interoperability across innovative technologies such as robotic and autonomous underwater vehicles, quantum technology, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced cyber capabilities, hypersonics, and electronic warfare.

Although these ambitious objectives may face regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles, the alliance has already shown its commitment and adaptability, making notable progress in multiple areas. By strengthening ties between these significant players in the defense industry, AUKUS continues to pave the way for increased security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. By harnessing nuclear technology for civil use it could also potentially seed zero emission technology into the civilian shipping sector. This cooperation symbolizes the deepening alliance and signals a robust and united front in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges.

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