Defence giant Babcock International Group Plc is on standby to help Australia build its new fleet of nuclear submarines.
The company, which runs the huge dockyards at Devonport in Plymouth and Rosyth in Scotland, said it is ready to share its vast experience and expertise in submarines and the infrastructure needed to go with them.
If Babcock is chosen to be involved in the newly announced project it is likely to represent a major pay day for the company and its Devonport facility.
The premiers of Australia, the UK and the USA have just announced a pact that will see Australia gain nuclear subs for the first time, in a move widely seen as countering Chinese military power in the Indo-Pacific.
The Aukus framework will see the nuclear-powered submarines built in Adelaide, Australia, but with the nation having no domestic nuclear industry it will need assistance from the British and Americans.
A Babcock spokesperson said: “We stand ready to support both the UK and Australian Governments based on our long-standing experience and expertise in the support of nuclear submarines and the associated infrastructure.”
The Australian government has admitted it will need to “leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries’ submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date”.
The Aukus pact was announced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, at a press conference alongside UK premier Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden.
Mr Morrison said: “We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide, Australia, in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Britain’s nuclear submarines are built in Barrow-in-Furness by BAE Systems, and based in Scotland, but Babcock provides support and life-extension for the fleet at Devonport.
As well as designing weapon handling and launch systems for all the UK subs, Babcock’s Devonport facility is the only site which can refit, refuel and defuel nuclear-powered subs in the UK. It is also where all UK Trafalgar and Vanguard submarines are refitted and upgraded. Babcock has worked on Spanish and South Korean subs too so is well versed in international cooperation.
The company has been selling off its stake in other firms, and some business assets entirely, as it strives to generate at least £400m and offset losses, which hit £1.64m, after the Covid pandemic caused damaging slippage to its work programmes.
Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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The value of the Aukus deal has yet to be revealed, but it rips up a US$90bn (£65bn) contract between Australia and France, signed only in 2016 – a move which an angry French government has called a “stab in the back”.
The Aukus pact is being seen as a bulwark against China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific area, where France is also looking to protect its interests. It is the only European country in the region and has the territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia, with 2million French citizens and more than 7,000 troops.