The UK government has awarded British arms manufacturer BAE Systems a 4 billion pound ($7.6 billion) contract as part of the AUKUS program to build attack submarines.
The British, Australian and US governments in March unveiled details of the program, which will see Australia provided with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s onwards to help counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Britain, which will also operate the submarines, is pivoting its foreign and defence policy towards the region, and is also seeking trade deals with fast-growing economies there since leaving the European Union.
BAE Systems, which has previously said AUKUS will be “significant” for the company, said in a statement the defence ministry had awarded it the funding to cover development work to 2028, allowing it to start detailed design work on the submarines.
British Defence Minister Grant Shapps said the “multi-billion-pound investment in the AUKUS submarine program will help deliver the long-term hunter-killer submarine capabilities the UK needs”.
The contract will secure funding for infrastructure work at the BAE Systems site in Barrow-in-Furness, north-west England, and the company says it will help fund 5,000 jobs.
BAE Systems said manufacturing of the submarines would start towards the end of the decade, with the first SSN-AUKUS-class vessel due to be delivered in the late 2030s.
“This funding reinforces the government’s support to our UK submarine enterprise and allows us to mature the design, and invest in critical skills and infrastructure to support our long-term national security,” BAE Systems chief executive Charles Woodburn said.
Source : ABC