Electric Boat Submarine With Tug

The USS HARTFORD arrives at Electric Boat's Groton Shipyard. Photo via General Dynamics Electric Boat

Electric Boat Shipyard Gets Ready To Support Australian Nuclear Submarine Program

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September 18, 2021

By Thomas Black (Bloomberg) The U.S., U.K. and Australia will each begin an 18-month review to identify how best to provide nuclear-submarine capabilities to the Australian Navy as part of a security partnership announced on Sept. 15, according to U.S. defense contractor General Dynamics $GD.

The effort is in “its earliest stages,” and plans are still being formed, said Kevin Graney, president of General Dynamics submarine unit Electric Boat, in a Thursday message to employees. 

“There is no specific action we’ve been asked to take at this time,” Graney said. “As the only American shipbuilder focused exclusively on the design, construction and maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines, we stand ready to support this endeavor, and have communicated that message to our Navy and government leaders.”

The security partnership would give Australia access to U.S. submarine technology that’s now only shared with the U.K. and comes as China increases its military capability and influence in the Asia-Pacific. The alliance also encompasses shared technologies on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other defense measures. 

Australia, which plans to build the nuclear submarines in Adelaide, broke off a long-term contract with France for diesel-powered submarines, which are limited by the duration of battery power in how long they can navigate underwater. Nuclear submarines only have to surface to provide supplies for the crews that operate them, making the vessels much more stealthy.

No Decisions

Still, no decisions have been made yet on the partnership and the consultative process will be led by the U.S. departments of Defense, State and Energy, according to a Pentagon official close to the matter.  

It’s too soon to tell how Electric Boat will be impacted by the partnership, Graney said. The unit is now building Virginia class nuclear submarines at a pace of two per year, he said, and has started construction on the new Columbia class of submarines, which will be armed with ballistic missiles and is a replacement for the older Ohio class. 

The announcement “affirms the strategic importance of nuclear-powered submarines,” Graney told his employees. 

–With assistance from Tony Capaccio.© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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