Australia’s AUKUS partner red-faced after sub files found in pub’s toilet

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London: Australia’s partner in the $368 billion AUKUS defence deal has been left red-faced after official documents about one of its Astute-class submarines were found in the toilets of a local pub.

Files carrying details about HMS Anson were left in the Furness Railway in Cumbria, alongside a Royal Navy lanyard, and showed the inner workings of the nuclear-powered submarine and were used by submariners learning how to isolate and depressurise elements of its system.

HMS Anson, Britain’s newest Astute-class submarine, at her commissioning ceremony in Barrow.Credit: Latika Bourke

The pub is a short distance from a BAE systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, where Australian submariners will undergo training as part of the cutting-edge nuclear-powered agreement with Britain and the United States.

A source told Britain’s The Sun the pub was packed when the files, marked “official sensitive”, were discovered on the floor of a cubicle.

A newspaper quoted a source saying: “It was lucky a Russian spy didn’t find them.”

Government guidance says ­that information marked “Sensitive” must only be shared on “genuine need to know” and could have damaging ­consequences if lost, stolen or ­published.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, with then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Barrow for the commissioning of Astute-class submarine.Credit: Official British government photographer.

The Royal Navy has announced it will investigate the breach, but said the papers were generic resources and did not contain any classified information.

“These are generic training documents that carry no classified information,” a Royal Navy spokesman said. “However, we take all security matters extremely seriously and will investigate the circumstances of their discovery.”

HMS Anson is the fifth of the new Astute-class attack submarines to join the Royal Navy fleet. The vessels are capable of firing tomahawk missiles and described as the “largest, most advanced and most powerful attack submarines” ever used.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is anticipated to visit the secure facility when he travels the UK next week ahead of attending King Charles III’s coronation. In the past year, Defence Minister Richard Marles and Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy have visited the base, as well as South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas.

The discovery of the files has made page one news in the United Kingdom.

Last month it was revealed the first Australian-built nuclear-powered submarines, fitted with vertical launch systems to fire cruise missiles, would be British-designed and incorporate US technology.

The submarines will be developed by BAE Systems at its Barrow-in-Furness shipyard before Australia expands it capability at Osborne, west of Adelaide. The SSN-AUKUS class will replace the Royal Navy’s Astute-class boats when they enter into operation.

The AUKUS pact is intended to help Australia secure nuclear-powered submarines as part of a wider push to counter China’s military might, but will also eventually result in the three nations co-operating in other areas, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber warfare.

Albanese has described AUKUS as the “single biggest leap” in Australia’s defence capabilities, but concerns remain about Australia’s reliance on the US and the maze of export controls that could slow the transfer of the nuclear-propulsion or other technology.

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