Aussie sailors sub off US repair ship for home visit

Bray Boland |

The USS Emory S Land has arrived in Sydney, enabling Australian sailors on board to visit family.
The USS Emory S Land has arrived in Sydney, enabling Australian sailors on board to visit family.

Australian sailors learning the ropes of submarine maintenance for the nation’s incoming nuclear fleet have sailed into Sydney Harbour on board a US naval ship.

USS Emory S Land created a spectacle of military unity as it coasted into Sydney alongside Royal Australian Navy ships on Friday. 

The vessel carries the knowledge and capabilities needed for the maintenance of Australia’s future submarine fleet. 

The US ship’s commander said the visit showcased the interoperability of the AUKUS defence pact allies. 

“With AUKUS in the last few years, it’s really given a new scale to what we are doing,” Commanding Officer Captain Brent Spillner said.

Half of the 35 RAN crew in training made their way home for a long-awaited visit with families.

“It’s part of the AUKUS initiative to train Australian technicians to work on US submarines,” Captain Spillner said.

“They showed up in January in Guam, we put them right to work and they’ve been an invaluable asset to us.”

A growing number of RAN sailors are training with the US Navy to build knowledge about nuclear submarine technology.

AUKUS was created in 2021 when Australia signed a security partnership with the US and UK.

The alliance enables the sharing of technological military secrets and the controversial development of a Australian nuclear submarine fleet due to begin arriving from the 2040s. 

USS Emory in Sydney
Australians are among the crew on board the US ship so they can learn how to maintain submarines. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

US and UK nuclear submarines will visit Australia more frequently from 2027 as the partnership develops and skills are taught aboard ships such as USS Emory. 

“This deployment really emphasises the increased cooperation which has been incredibly strong over decades,” Australian Fleet Deputy Commander Commodore Ray Leggatt said. 

USS Emory is in Australia as part of a greater Pacific deployment that has visited Darwin and Cairns en route to other allied collaborations.

Described by Captain Spillner as a floating submarine base, the ship repairs and maintains submarines at sea.

Submarines breach and dock beside the ship and anything that needs fixing is engineered in the vessel’s sprawling workshop. 

The ship has everything required on board for long voyages, such as workshops, virtual shooting ranges, a barber and even a supermarket. 

Sailors will have a week in Sydney before re-joining the vessel’s sister ship in Guam where the remaining Australian sailors are training.