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Navy’s Del Toro: AUKUS Submarine Roadmap to Arrive On Time

The public will receive details on the agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines about “a week or two” after a study period wraps up in March, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said Feb. 1.

After signing an agreement in September 2021, the three nations embarked on an 18-month fact finding mission to create a roadmap to build Australia a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Under the AUKUS agreement, the United States and the United Kingdom will share with Australia their top secret know-how on nuclear-powered vessels as well as cooperate on a number of emerging technologies such as hypersonics and quantum physics.

Del Toro confirmed that work on the submarine roadmap would come to an end in March, which is on schedule. As to when the three nations would share their conclusions with the public and press, that would come within a couple weeks after March, he said during a talk delivered to the American Society of Naval Engineer’s Combat System Symposium in Arlington, Virginia.

He was confident the White House will produce a statement within the set timeframe, he said. “Whatever happens, it will be in short time,” he said.

Meanwhile, the three nations have focused on strengthening their partnership over the past year, he said.

“AUKUS brings tremendous strategic, operational and tactical capability to not just the United States, but all three of these nations working together,” he said. He has been “deeply involved” in the discussions, saying he is “very pleased” with the transparency, extent and the nature of the discussions.

Arriving at the “right solution,” however, is complicated, he said.

“There are a lot of serious things that have to be taken under consideration, not just from an acquisition perspective, but from an operational perspective, as well.” He said he is confident that come March, the leaders of all three nations will be making a statement that everybody can agree to. The statement will commit to the program “in a serious way,” and pave the way toward a solution.

“I’m very excited by and not concerned about the challenges that lie ahead,” he said. There are serious challenges, but they can be overcome, he said.

Those challenges include capacity at U.S. and U.K. shipyards. Both nations are in the throes of building and fielding new submarines, including the U.S. Navy’s Columbia-class and Virginia-class boats, and the Royal Navy’s Dreadnaught-class subs.

Earlier in his talk, Del Toro addressed some of the capacity issues the Navy is facing for both its surface ships and submarines. The Navy hopes a $2.3 billion investment to strengthen and sustain the submarine shipbuilding industry will help with the challenges that exist within the industrial workforce. Challenges with shipyard infrastructure, supply chain issues and a dwindling workforce have plagued efforts to keep up with what Del Toro called a “rapid” need for fielding concepts and capabilities.

“We are not where we need to be, however,” he said. “We need ships to be built faster.”

The Navy is only as strong as the nation’s ability to build and maintain ships, he said. Finding a balance between readiness today, the decision to modernize investments tomorrow and the need for capacity his “constant challenge,” he said.

Del Toro said he is committed to investing in programs that aim to solve these issues, including fostering training and wage improvements for the workers necessary to compete.

“The stakes for America’s Navy are as high as they have been in my lifetime,” he said. “I gotta get real to get better.”

Del Toro identified enhancing strategic partnerships as one of his primary goals for the Navy—Marine Corps team – across the joint force, industry and with international partners. He called teamwork the most important characteristic of success.

“When we succeed in strengthening our maritime dominance, building our culture of warfighting excellence, enhancing our partnerships — we will ensure that our nation, our values, do prevail,” he said.

Maritime dominance is also dependent on delivering combat systems to meet strategic objectives, he said.

U.S. naval supremacy is being challenged in a way not seen since World War II, both militarily and economically. China has more than quadrupled its export trade and used its growing wealth and economic power to rapidly expand and modernize its military— particularly its navy, he said.

With approximately 340 ships moving towards a fleet of 440 ships by 2030, China’s “aggressive maritime activities” in the South China Sea has the potential to undermine international law.

“That is why I have directed our Navy—Marine Corps Team to prioritize our investment in readiness efforts to make sure that our ships and our aircraft are always prepared to deploy and deter our adversaries,” he said.

That will require rapidly fielding concepts and capabilities that create advantages relative to the threat, he said. Keeping up with that pace, however, is a challenge the Navy is working to address.

Programs such as a Marine Corps Innovation Center intend to encourage and support new thinking necessary to accomplish that goal. He illustrated the importance of future designs by highlighting work done on the DDG(X) – also known as the next-generation guided missile destroyer program.

Designing and developing complex deterrents with “lethal capability” like the DDG(X) is integral to maritime dominance, he said. And producing design and development requires workers and shipyards, he said.

Source : National Defense Magazine



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