“It depends on how quickly Australia can generate, on an endogenous basis, the sort of skill sets you need to build an SSN [submersible ship nuclear],” he said.
“High-skilled welders, electricians, those sorts of things are pretty niche when you’re talking about something as complex as an SSN.
“That can be hard. That’s where you could find the two countries pulling on the same groups of experts, particularly because Australia seems to be actively seeking people from abroad with the relevant expertise to actually take part in construction.”
The government estimates there will be a peak of 8500 jobs required to build and sustain the submarines in Australia, part of a total of 20,000 roles that will be created across the next 30 years in the Australian military, public service and private sector.
Scientists, engineers, project managers, technicians, welders, construction workers, electricians and metal fitters will be among the booming occupations that will support supply chains and shipyards.
Dr Kaushal speculated that Britain and Australia might need to in effect alternate parts of the production process, so that the relevant workers could rotate between the Cumbrian and South Australian shipyards.
He said the US submarine production system involved a pair of manufacturers working in tandem, one as the primary production line and the other as subcontractor, before reversing roles for the next sub.
“We could see something similar with the British and Australians: the Australian production line acts as subcontractors or components of the British sub during the British build, and then the roles are reversed – if you can sequence them into a kind of drumbeat.”
Dr Kaushal’s view was backed by the maritime security news website Navy Lookout, which raised the issue of security vetting – a laborious process in the security and military agencies – as well as recruitment and training.
“Recruiting specialist engineers and submarine builders to South Australia from overseas must be done with care and not by poaching from the finite talents of their AUKUS partners,” the website said.
“It will likely not be funding, but securing adequate numbers of SQEP (Suitably Qualified and Experienced People) that will be the biggest single factor defining whether the AUKUS submarine program can be successfully delivered.”
Navy Lookout noted that BAE Systems’ workforce at Britain’s submarine shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness is already in the process of expanding from 10,000 to 17,000 to support the construction of both the AUKUS sub and the Dreadnought-class nuclear-armed subs.
“Besides the expansion of the design teams, in the longer term, this enormous increase in staff may also enable significant parts of the Australian boats to be built in the UK,” the analysts said.
The reactors for the AUKUS subs would likely be built in Britain by Rolls Royce at its factory in Derby, then assembled in Barrow.
“The complete reactor compartment would then be shipped to Australia for insertion into the boats built at the Osborne yard,” the website said.