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Australia’s defence forces investigating Garden Island nuclear submarine capabilities investigated

The strategic review of Australia’s defence forces is investigating the capacity of HMAS Stirling at Garden Island to simultaneously receive multiple nuclear-powered submarines from the US and UK.

The Henderson maritime precinct, south of Perth, has also been identified as a potential site for maintenance work on Australia’s planned nuclear submarine fleet, former defence minister Stephen Smith revealed.

Mr Smith and retired Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston were earlier this month appointed to lead the sweeping review of the army, navy and air force, which will report to the Albanese Government by next March.

Speaking at the Indian Ocean Defence and Security Conference in Perth on Friday, Mr Smith said a draft report with initial findings would be given to Defence Minister Richard Marles on November 1.

Former Defence Minister Stephen Smith will speak at the final Brand lecture for 2020.
Camera IconFormer Defence Minister Stephen Smith. Credit: AAP

Mr Smith said the review was working “hand in glove” with a separate task force chaired by Vice-Admiral Jonathan Mead, which is looking at the options for Australia acquiring a nuclear submarine powered capability.

The pair this week visited Garden Island to see what infrastructure improvements were needed in the short and long term, “if a number of nuclear submarines, UK or US, would arrive at HMAS Stirling tomorrow”.

“We also are interested in, ultimately, on the basis that at some stage Australia acquires nuclear submarines, what potential do we have for maintenance and sustainment on the Henderson maritime strip,” he said.

Similar visits will take place in Port Adelaide and Brisbane in coming months, as well a tour of the nation’s “northern and western approaches”, including at RAAF bases Curtin and Learmonth.

“Very much a focus of the work that we are doing is how do we make sure that our northern and western approaches are not only protected strategically, but project capacity, project force, project the notion of familiarity,” Mr Smith said.

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