The United States President, Joe Biden, has announced the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, dashing the hopes of the United Kingdom, which was competing with the United States to sell its Astute Class submarine to Australia.
This year, Australian [Navy] personnel will embed with US and UK crews on vessels and bases in [training] schools and shipyards. The navies will expand port trips to Australia, according to Biden.
With Congress’ backing and permission, the US will sell three Virginia class submarines to Australia beginning in the early 2030s, with the option to sell up to two more subs if needed, launching its undersea capability a decade earlier than many thought, he added.
But the end goal isn’t only to sell submarines; Australia is working together to create something new, the USS AUKUS. According to Biden, this new state-of-the-art, conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarine will blend UK submarine technology and design with US expertise.
President Biden said that the decision to share classified US nuclear technology with Australia is significant and vital. On Monday, he spoke at Naval Base San Diego, California, flanked by the UK Prime Minister Rishi Saunak and the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Despite being asked by many countries, the United States has only given its nuclear propulsion technology once in its history, almost four decades ago, with the British.
Biden emphasised that the agreement concerns nuclear propulsion, not armaments, and the leaders agreed to uphold their nuclear non-proliferation commitments.
Enriched uranium reactors are used in these submarine nuclear reactors. Formally, such highly enriched uranium must be placed under the necessary IAEA supervision systems.
The multi-decade agreement calls for American and British nuclear-powered submarines to enter Australian waters as early as 2027.
According to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the transaction, which might cost almost $150 billion (around 200 billion Australian dollars), will create jobs and encourage innovation and research.
Australia and the United Kingdom will construct a new conventional SSN AUKUS class nuclear submarine. Innovative Australian and American technologies will be used based on a British design. The first submarines of the project will be produced in the United Kingdom and will enter service with the [Australian Navy] by the end of the 2030s, according to Albanese, who also stated that production of the SSN AUKUS will be transferred to Australia in the future. It is critical to stress that all submarines would be a sovereign resource of Australia, commanded by the Australian Navy and serviced by Australians at local shipyards, he said.
Australia’s nuclear submarine fleet, in particular, will be created using British technology and American weapons systems.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who earlier happily reported to his cabinet colleagues that Australia will buy the submarines from the United Kingdom, said that his country’s military budget would be increased to 2.5% of GDP to confront growing global threats.
Criticism in Australia
Australia had previously stated its aim to build its nuclear submarine fleet by the fall of 2021. At least eight nuclear-powered submarines were to be built in the Australian Navy’s shipyards in Adelaide using American or British technology supplied to Canberra under the AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, and United States) alliance accords. Subsequently, it was decided to purchase more completed Virginia-class submarines from the US Navy.
The plan to acquire Virginia creates quite a few challenges for Australia on a practical level and risks considerable costs.
According to Malcolm Davis, an expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, deploying several classes of nuclear submarines will be a challenging test, given that Australia does not produce the submarines on its own.
According to John Blacksland, chairman of the Australian National University’s Center for Strategic and Defense Studies, Australia favours smaller British submarines and one of Australia’s leading defence experts. According to Blacksand, the United States manufactures enormous boats, but their production line is overcrowded, whereas the British version is smaller and easier to handle. Crew size is a critical constraint for Australian submarines, which struggle with crewing even on the much smaller Collins class.
Beijing has blasted the alliance, accusing Washington of “inciting rivalry and hostility.”
According to Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, this trilateral cooperation poses major nuclear proliferation concerns, undermines the international non-proliferation framework, exacerbates the arms race, and harms peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. He claimed that regional countries and the world community have widely questioned and rejected it. He urged the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia to forsake Cold War mentalities and zero-sum games, honour international responsibilities in good faith, and do more to promote regional peace and stability.