Three Royal Australian Navy officers graduated from the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, marking a significant step in Australia’s goal to operate nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs).
CAPTION: Lieutenant Commander Adam Klyne, Lieutenant William Hall and Lieutenant Commander James Heydon after graduating from the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit on Friday 12 January 2024. Story and photo courtesy Naval Reactors and AUKUS I&A Public Affairs.
Lieutenant Commander James Heydon, Lieutenant Commander Adam Klyne and Lieutenant William Hall started at NPTU in July 2023, becoming the first cadre of Royal Australian Navy personnel to go through one of the US Department of Defense’s most rigorous and demanding training pipelines.
They previously graduated from the prerequisite Nuclear Power School in July 2023.
Lieutenant Commander Adam Klyne said he was really looking forward to putting the concepts and theories he had learned at power school into operation at the prototype training.
“Operating a nuclear reactor was thrilling, humbling, and allowed us to get that hands-on experience we need to safely operate the Royal Australian Navy’s future SSNs,” Lieutenant Commander Klyne said.
NPTU trains officers, enlisted sailors and civilians for shipboard nuclear-power-plant operation and maintenance of surface ships and submarines in the US Navy’s nuclear fleet.
Director of the US Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Admiral Bill Houston said NPTU was where US nuclear operators put the knowledge and theories they learned in power school into actual power-plant operation and watch-standing capabilities.
“It’s here that our students learn to safely and competently operate the plant in both normal and potential casualty situations,” Admiral Houston said.
The three Royal Australian Navy officers will next report to Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC) in Groton, Connecticut, where they will undergo the same training given to US Navy officers entering the submarine force.
After completion of SOBC, they will be assigned to US Navy Virginia-class submarines to continue their training and qualifications.
Lieutenant Hall said the trio’s progression through the schools in South Carolina, and next in Groton, would bring them closer to our ultimate goal of serving aboard not just SSNs, but Australian-flagged SSNs early next decade.
Initially announced in September 2021, the AUKUS trilateral agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States is a strategic endeavor aimed at strengthening the security and defense capabilities of the three nations, that also promotes stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia will acquire conventionally-armed SSNs for the Royal Australian Navy under Pillar I of AUKUS via the Optimal Pathway announced by the leaders of the three partner nations in March 2023.
The Optimal Pathway for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines began this year with an increase in the number of US SSNs visiting HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.
As early as 2027, US and UK SSNs will begin extended rotations to Australia to accelerate the development of Australia’s workforce, infrastructure, and regulatory system as part of the Submarine Rotational Force – West (SRF-W).
Subject to Congressional approval, the United States intends to sell three Virginia Class SSNs to Australia starting in the early 2030s with the potential to sell up to two additional hulls if needed.
These efforts will maintain Australia’s submarine capabilities as it builds its fleet of SSN-AUKUS, a UK designed nuclear-powered attack submarine that will incorporate technologies from the three partner nations and built in both the UK and Australia.
The Royal Navy intends to take delivery of the first SSN AUKUS in the late 2030s followed by the first Australian-built SSN-AUKUS in the early 2040s.