• Minister for Defence Industry - WA Government Paul Papalia giving the ministerial address at the WA Defence Forum.
Credit: Nigel Pittaway
    Minister for Defence Industry - WA Government Paul Papalia giving the ministerial address at the WA Defence Forum. Credit: Nigel Pittaway

The second ADM Western Australia Defence Forum was held on 19 March and attracted around 180 delegates to discuss the current status and future of defence business in WA.

The event was once again held in the Gary Holland Community Centre in the City of Rockingham and chaired for the day by Professor Gia Parish, Director of the University of Western Australia’s Defence and Security Institute.

Following a welcome by the Mayor of the City of Rockingham Deb Hamblin, the ministerial address was delivered by the WA Government’s Minister for Defence Industry Paul Papalia, who noted that the state is the “premier site” for frigate and submarine sustainment for the ADF. He also noted that the WA Government is now preparing to sustain and maintain nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS Pillar 1 agreement.

“We have to acquire a capability that doesn’t even exist in Australia, and we have to acquire it really rapidly,” he told attendees.

Papalia revealed that the first maintenance period of a US Navy Virginia-class submarine will be conducted at HMAS Stirling later this year.

“It will be a real a thing; a moment in time where, for the first time the Navy – and to a certain extent, WA’s defence Industry – will be assisting and starting to learn how to maintain nuclear submarines,” he said.

“That will be the first of many. From here until 2027 there will be more frequent and longer enduring alongside maintenance periods conducted on nuclear submarines in WA. That is so that: firstly, the Americans can confirm that they’re comfortable about bringing their own submarines down here and operating remotely. But also, so that Australia’s navy and our defence industry can become familiar with that skillset that we have to acquire in such a relatively short period of time.”

Papalia said that WA will use the opportunity to familiarise local industry with maintaining a nuclear submarine.

“Then in 2027, which is not very far in the future, the Submarine Rotation Force West  - SRF-W – will be operating from HMAS Stirling,” he added,  noting that there could be up to four US Navy Virginia-class submarines and one Royal Navy Astute-class boat forward operating from HMAS Stirling at any given time.

“It means that by that time we’ll have to have built a capability of assisting to maintain those submarines,” Papalia told delegates. “It won’t be deeper-level maintenance - it will be early stages – but it will be a pathway towards the capability that we have to acquire, that of maintaining the submarine completely on our own. [It] will be required because in 2032, we’ll be getting our own submarine.”

A detailed account of the WA Defence Forum and the challenges that lie ahead for industry will appear in the May issue of ADM.

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