A group of 37 Royal Australian Navy personnel has flown to the US Navy base on the Pacific island of Guam to commence a five-month tour of duty onboard the submarine tender, USS Emory S Land.
The tour is part of the AUKUS Pillar 1 effort to build a Navy and industry workforce in Australia capable of supporting Australian, US and UK nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) from 2027. The sailors and officers will be embedded with the crew of the vessel and build the necessary knowledge, skills and experience on how the US Navy conducts SSN maintenance.
In late 2024 a US Navy submarine will undergo maintenance at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. The maintenance will be conducted from the USS Emory S Land, and will be performed by a mix of US and Australian personnel.
The tour comes after three RAN officers graduated from the US Navy’s Nuclear Power School in July 2023 and its Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in January, becoming the first cadre of RAN personnel to go through one of the US Navy’s most rigorous and demanding training pipelines.
The NPTU trains sailors and civilians for shipboard nuclear power plant operation and maintenance of surface ships and submarines in the US Navy’s nuclear fleet.
Under the AUKUS Pillar 1 construct with the US and UK, US Navy and Royal Navy submarines will be based at HMAS Stirling from 2027 as part of the Submarine Rotational Force – West (SRF-W).
Australia plans to buy at least three Virginia class SSNs in the 2030s before work starts on building a new class of SSN-AUKUS SSNs, which will enter service in the early 2040s.
The training of Australian personnel on US Navy vessels and in US Navy nuclear training facilities as well as exchange postings on US Navy and Royal Navy boats will ensure a cadre of suitably qualified personnel is in place in time for the arrival of Australia’s first Virginia boat.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said the opportunity for RAN personnel to learn from Australia’s AUKUS partners demonstrated meaningful progress along Australia’s pathway to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.
“The maintenance of a United States nuclear-powered submarine at HMAS Stirling in the second half of the year will be an important milestone in the development of skills within Australia’s submarine and industry workforces,” he said.
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mark Hammond added, “The skills, knowledge and experience gained in Guam alongside our United States Navy partners will afford our people the opportunity to undertake some of the most complex maintenance on a United States SSN.
“This is an exciting step forward in developing our workforce skillsets so that the Royal Australian Navy is ready to support, maintain and operate Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarine capability.”
Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on Riotact.