Thursday, 23 March, 2023

Australia to purchase US nuclear-powered subs

Australia to purchase US nuclear-powered subs

SAN DIEGO: Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the United States starting in the early 2030s, the two countries and Britain said Monday, as part of their multiphase project intended to counter China's military expansion and territorial ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region, reports Kyodo News.

The agreement to provide some of the United States' most sensitive military technology was announced as President Joe Biden hosted a summit in San Diego of the AUKUS trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

A joint statement from Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deal expands our individual and collective undersea presence in the Indo-Pacific, and contributes to global security and stability.

Standing with the other leaders after the meeting at a US naval base, Albanese said a new chapter has begun in the three-way relationship built on the countries' shared values, commitment to democracy and vision for a peaceful future.

Thanking the United States for sharing its nuclear propulsion technology for the first time in 65 years, he said the agreement represents the biggest single investment in Australia's defense capability in all of our history.

Biden emphasized that the nuclear-powered submarines will not have any nuclear weapons of any kind.

Starting early in the next decade, the United States, after securing congressional approval, plans to sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia, which will have the option of acquiring two more.

Biden said the three countries' plan is a testament to the strength of the longstanding ties that unite us and to our shared commitment of ensuring the Indo Pacific remains free and open, prosperous and secure, adding this is the objective of the United States along with its other allies and partners in the region.

Sunak, who vowed to increase Britain's defense spending earlier in the day, said the challenges posed by countries such as China, North Korea and Russia have only grown since the trilateral framework was established.

This is a powerful partnership. For the first time ever, it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across both the Atlantic and Pacific, keeping our oceans free, open and prosperous for decades to come, Sunak said.

The new security partnership was announced in September 2021 to pave the way for the purchase as well as eventual collaboration on the development of a new type of submarine, called SSN-AUKUS.

In the first stage of the project, the United States and Britain will train Australian officers and engineers on how to operate nuclear-powered submarines.

Using technology from the three countries, Australia and the United Kingdom will begin work on building SSN-AUKUS units in their shipyards within the decade, according to the statement.

It said Australia and Britain will deploy the new vessels as their submarines of the future.

After Australia's acquisition of the vessels from the United States, the third phase of producing the new version will kick in, with Britain scheduled to deliver its first SSN-AUKUS to the Royal Navy in the late 2030s.

Australia's first such delivery to its navy is expected in the early 2040s.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told Albanese over the phone that Japan supports the steps taken by AUKUS, as they contribute to regional peace and stability amid an increasingly severe security environment in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the talks, the Australian leader explained the nuclear-powered submarine procurement plan, the Japanese government said.