Is SSN-AUKUS a realistic option for Canada?

On the occasion of an announcement, eagerly awaited by the Canadian armies, of a future increase in defense spending by Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he had spoken with his American, British and Australian counterparts, regarding Canada's possible membership in the AUKUS alliance.

The leader also announced discussions with these same interlocutors so that Ottawa could possibly join the SSN-AUKUS program, aimed at designing a new generation nuclear attack submarine to equip the British and Australian navies. .

However, if the choice of nuclear propulsion for future Canadian attack submarines would make a lot of sense, all the other parameters concerning this hypothesis, ranging from the timetable to the costs of such a program, ring false. to Canadian realities.

Towards an extension of the AUKUS alliance to face China in the Pacific

For several weeks, the United States has increased diplomatic overtures to try to strengthen the AUKUS alliance, in the face of growing tensions with China. Therefore the subject was raised with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, on the occasion of his official visit to Washington to meet President Biden.

Taigei class JSDF submarine
Japan has a powerful conventional submarine fleet, which is rapidly modernizing with the arrival of the Taipei, the first submarines equipped with Lithium-ion batteries.

For Tokyo, it would be a question of joining the second pillar of the AUKUS alliance, relating only to military cooperation, and not to its participation in the SSN-AUKUS nuclear attack submarine program.

Remember that the Japanese naval self-defense forces already have a very efficient submarine fleet, currently being modernized with the new Taïgei class submarines, the first ships equipped with Lithium-ion batteries. Furthermore, constitutionally, the country does not have the ability to deploy its forces, significantly limiting the usefulness of nuclear-powered submarines.

Justin Trudeau discusses talks with US, UK and Australia to join AUKUS

This is not at all the case, however, for Canada. Not only does Ottawa share, with the three founding members of the AUKUS alliance, its membership of the Five Eyes, the closest allies of the United States, but the country does not have the constitutional constraints which govern the use of armed forces Japanese.

In addition, the Royal Canadian Navy has initiated a program to replace its four Victoria-class submarines with six to twelve new submarines, to simultaneously strengthen its presence on its Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Vctoria-class submarine
The 4 Victoria class submarines of the Royal Canadian Navy entered service between 1990 and 1993.

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  1. Goodnight M. Wolf,

    Thank you again for your interesting articles.
    I have a question about Naval Group's production capabilities in the field of submarines.
    Because if Naval Group is well advanced in the French Suffren series, then the 4 (5?) new SSBNs will come which promise to be “monsters” with complex construction. Could be added the 4 Dutch Barracudas, and why not a few Scorpènes for buyers who do not have the skills to build them (which is not the case for Indonesia which wants, if I understand correctly , build her Scorpènes at home in technology transfer). The question is therefore that of the construction capacities of Naval Group.
    Wouldn't French shipyards be affected by the same problem as their American counterparts? Because if Naval Group is not far from its maximum capacities with few possibilities to increase them, a Canadian order (even unlikely) would be difficult to honor.
    Do you have any information on the French side?

    • Good evening Mr Manciaux
      It is, in fact, a determining parameter. With the Dutch order, and the SSBNs, we can consider that the Cherbourg site will be stuck for around ten years, unless industrial capacities are increased. In Indonesia and India, it will be local construction, so no worries. Probably also in Poland. For Canada, sincerely, I doubt that Washington will make Ottawa turn to Paris, but the price argument can make the difference. Moreover, since the writing of this article, they seem to have returned to these remarks, and seem to be interested in 3 or 4 SSK models, namely the South Korean KSS-III Dosan Anh Chango, the German Type 212CD, and perhaps the Japanese Soryu. For the moment, there has been no recent communication from Naval Group concerning this file (unlike the three previously mentioned), but French manufacturers are traditionally very discreet in their commercial approaches.
      However, if other orders are looming (Poland, Malaysia, Argentina, etc.), we can think that Naval Group could be tempted to extend its industrial infrastructure in Cherbourg, which would open up options for Canada. And if, indeed, the Blacksword Barracuda is 25% less expensive than its competitors, it risks doing very badly, provided that industrial capacities are actually available. In fact, if Naval Group actually responds to Canadian competition, we can think that the industrialist is seriously considering this option.


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