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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2024

In AUKUS First, Royal Australian Navy personnel report to U.S. Submarine Tender

By AUKUS I&A Public Affairs

Washington, DC (Feb. 6, 2024) More than three dozen Royal Australian Navy (RAN) sailors and officers reported aboard the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) as part of the ship’s crew under a Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) effort. The RAN personnel will support Emory S. Land’s mission to repair, rearm, and resupply forward-deployed U.S. Navy fast-attack submarines (SSNs). This PEP is being executed in accordance with the Australia, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) Pillar I effort to deliver a sovereign conventionally armed SSN fleet to Australia.

“These RAN officers and sailors represent the future of Australia’s ability to maintain and operate SSNs,” said Rear Adm. Lincoln Reifsteck, the U.S. Navy’s AUKUS Integration and Acquisition Program Manager. “Their assignment aboard Emory S. Land will prepare them to support the maintenance requirements for SSNs assigned to Submarine Rotational Force-West (SRF-W), which is foundational to establishing a sovereign SSN force in Australia under the Pillar I Optimal Pathway.”

Announced on March 13, 2023, the Optimal Pathway is the trilateral plan to build a sovereign RAN SSN fleet. The Optimal Pathway consists of three interrelated phases:

  • Phase One: Establishment of Submarine Rotational Force – West (SRF-W), consisting of up to four U.S. SSNs and one UK SSN rotating through HMAS Stirling in Western Australia as early as 2027.
  • Phase Two: Selling three Virginia-class submarines to Australia starting in the early 2030s, with the possibility of selling up to two additional Virginia hulls.
  • Phase Three: Australia and the UK build SSN AUKUS, a UK designed SSN that will include technologies from all three AUKUS partners.  The delivery of the first Australian-built ship is expected in the early 2040s.

 “We’re thrilled to integrate RAN sailors into our team,” said Capt. Brent Spillner, commanding officer, USS Emory S. Land (AS 39). “They’re already accomplished technicians and engineers; our role is to familiarize them with the specific construction and work practices used on U.S. attack submarines like the ones they’ll eventually receive. I expect it to be mutually rewarding as we learn from each other, and become better able to support each other’s fleets anywhere in the world.”

As forward deployed naval forces, Emory S. Land and her sister ship USS Frank Cable (AS 40) provide expeditionary intermediate level maintenance and repair, ordnance, logistics, medical, and personnel support to U.S. and allied submarines and surface warships. The tenders act as Lead Maintenance Activity for U.S. Navy forces in Guam, and also travel or send fly-away teams to meet ships anywhere in the Western Pacific or Indian Oceans.

Later this year, the RAN sailors will be part of the maintenance team that executes a Submarine Tendered Maintenance Period (STMP) on a U.S. SSN in HMAS Stirling.

“This is a great opportunity to gain real-world maintenance experience on U.S. SSNs ahead of the first SRF-W boat arriving in a few short years,” said the Royal Australian Navy’s Director SRF-W Maintenance Capt. Will McDougall. “Having our officers and sailors assigned to a U.S. submarine tender also highlights the deep ties between our navies – and when you add the personnel undergoing similar work in the United Kingdom, it demonstrates that AUKUS is working and we are moving forward.”

The AUKUS partnership is a strategic endeavor that will uplift the industrial bases of the three partners, and promote a safe, free, and open Indo-Pacific, ensuring an international, rules-based order is upheld in the region. Australia will acquire conventionally armed SSNs for the Royal Australian Navy under AUKUS Pillar I. The AUKUS Integration and Acquisition (I&A) Program Office is responsible for executing the trilateral partnership to deliver conventionally armed, nuclear-powered attack submarines to the RAN  at the earliest possible date while setting the highest nuclear stewardship standards and continuing to maintain the highest nonproliferation standard.

To learn about AUKUS Pillar One and the Optimal Pathway visit ---- FACT SHEET:  Trilateral Australia-UK-US Partnership on Nuclear-Powered Submarines | The White House