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Australia talks down prospect of having nuclear submarines by 2030

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Australia’s new Defence Minister yesterday talked down the prospect of Australia acquiring United States (US) nuclear-powered submarines by the end of the decade, describing such a timetable as “optimistic in the extreme”.

Defence Minister Richard Marles, whose party came to power at elections last month, said his priority was closing a naval capability gap that is expected to open when Australia’s aging fleet of six Collins-class diesel-electric submarines begins to retire from 2038.

The US and Britain have agreed to provide Australia with a fleet of submarines powered by US nuclear technology.

But when the agreement was announced in September, the first submarine was not expected to be delivered until 2040.

Former Defence Minister Peter Dutton said this month that the US could be persuaded to provide Australia with two Virginia-class submarines from its Connecticut production line by 2030.

Marles, who is acting prime minister while Anthony Albanese is overseas, doubted Australia would have a single nuclear-powered submarine by 2030.

“I think that is optimistic in the extreme,” Marles told Australian Broadcasting Corp, saying the previous government had expected a delivery date in the 2040s.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles speaks during a press conference at the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore. PHOTO: AP