As part of the deepening defense ties between the U.S., the UK, and Australia bolstered under Team Trump to challenge China, the Biden administration has now formalized a new defense pact between the three powers called ‘AUKUS,’ an abbreviation of all three countries’ names.
As part of this renewed effort, Britain and the U.S. have promised Australia advanced nuclear submarine technology to build its first nuclear-powered boats.
This new capability will allow Australian submarines to roam much farther, longer, and be stealthier than their current sub force can. These are important factors for effectively patrolling the vast reaches of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
China has a fleet of 60 submarines, including six nuclear-powered attack subs, according to a Nuclear Threat Initiative report from February.
In pursuing this US-UK sub-plan, Australia scrapped a $90 billion order for 12 French-designed submarines, which the French bitterly complained about, saying Biden acted like Trump in undermining their deal.
To be clear, this new agreement is about nuclear-powered subs, not nuclear-armed subs. A senior U.S. official said on background:
I do want to underscore that the Biden administration remains deeply committed to American leadership in [nuclear] non-proliferation. This is nuclear propulsion. Australia has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons.
Previously, in 68 years, the U.S. has only previously shared nuclear propulsion technology with one other country – the U.K. in 1958.
The official added that the U.S. move to share nuclear propulsion technology with Australia “will allow us to sustain and to improve deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
“This is a fundamental decision that binds decisively Australia to the United States and Great Britain for generations,” the official said.
According to Defense One:
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., applauded the deal, saying that it is a “concrete” step to counter Beijing.
“Partnering with Australia on a new nuclear-powered submarine fleet is a huge investment in the long-term health of our alliances and sends a clear message of strength to Chairman Xi,” Sasse said in a statement. “The President’s Asia team deserves credit for jumpstarting this important work — but we still need more urgency.” ADN