US admiral issues blunt warning on building Australian submarines in overstretched shipyards – ABC News

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US admiral issues blunt warning on building Australian submarines in overstretched shipyards
A senior US Navy official has warned helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines could be too big a burden for America's already overstretched shipyards.
During an online forum, the US program executive officer for strategic submarines was questioned on America's shipbuilding workforce and the implications of the AUKUS partnership with Australia.
Rear Admiral Scott Pappano said the ambitious plan could hamper his nation's own nuclear submarine program, as well as the United Kingdom's, in comments made to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
"If you are asking my opinion, if we were going to add additional submarine construction to our industrial base, that would be detrimental to us right now," Admiral Pappano said.
The rear admiral added that significant investment would be needed to provide "additional capacity, capability to go do that"
"I won't speak for the UK, but I think that exists for both the US and the UK where we're looking right now," he said.
The Defence Department is currently conducting an 18-month study on the best option for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarine capability, with a report due to hand down official recommendations in March.
Earlier this year former defence minister, now Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton claimed he was confident Australia could secure two American-built Virginia-class nuclear submarines by 2030.
Mr Dutton insisted that if the Coalition had remained in office, it could have been "in a position to make an announcement around July-August" on acquiring US-built nuclear submarines.
US naval figures have long held private reservations about allowing Australia to join an American production line for nuclear-powered submarines, but Admiral Pappano's comments are the strongest public intervention so far.
In his appearance at the Mitchell Institute, Admiral Pappano predicted America's submarine production in the financial year 2025 was expected to be five times what it was two years ago.
The increased workload includes doubling the construction of the newest Virginia-class submarines to two boats a year, and introducing a new version of the Virginia-class known as Block V, which allows for more Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Later this decade, production of the next generation Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, or SSBNs, is also scheduled to come into effect.
Admiral Pappano said the US Navy was working with local shipbuilders to receive the Columbia-class boats six months earlier than planned, cutting the delivery schedule from 84 to 78 months. 
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace remarked that Australia's future nuclear-powered submarines, under the AUKUS agreement was "not an either, or type question" between British or American designs, but could be a collaborative program between the three nations.
He said Australia's submarine "may look like something none of us have in our stocks", with the latest post-Astute class submarine designs fully shared among Australia, Britain and the US.
"The question is how do we get to 2035 and 2040 in our deliveries (of building submarines) which we all need?" Mr Wallace said.
"We need to be truly collaborative as we can be, we might have a bit of all three of us on it, and in the meantime we've helped contribute to building a skills base and a workforce and an operating navy to deliver that."
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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