Security & Military

United States to provide three nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia under AUKUS deal

by Fantine Gardinier, Sputnik News

In remarks at the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego, California, US President Joe Biden laid out the process by which Washington will deliver at least three nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia in the coming years under the aegis of the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) pact.
Appearing with Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Australia, respectively, Biden referred to their countries on Monday as “two of America’s most stalwart and capable allies” that “share a common vision.”
The US “can ask for no better partners in the Indo-Pacific,” Biden said, asserting that their pact is “showing again how democracies can deliver.”
Biden said the US would begin building three Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines and sell them to Australia “beginning in the early 2030s, with the option for Canberra to buy two more boats.
“These subs are … nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed,” Biden quickly asserted. “These boats will not have nuclear weapons of any kind on them.”
He said the US was “deeply committed to strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime,” and that “Australia will not produce nuclear fuel” for the submarines.
Australian personnel have already begun learning from their US counterparts about how to operate and maintain the submarines, Biden said, a process which will include embedding in classes, shipyards, and the boats themselves.
Later in the decade, the US and UK will establish a rotational presence of nuclear-powered submarines in Australia to assist in maintenance training, Biden also said.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to begin construction of a new class of conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines to be operated by both the British and Australian navies, and with some shared parts with American submarines – a program dubbed “SSN AUKUS.”
Both Albanese and Sunak noted that their participation in the program has resulted in massive new defense budgets, with Albanese saying the AUKUS agreement represents “the single biggest investment in Australia’s defense commitment in all of our history.”
“This is the first time in 65 years, and only the second time in history, that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology, and we thank you for it,” Albanese said.
Sunak noted the UK would be adding “an extra 5 billion pounds” to its defense budget, increasing it to 2.5% of GDP in another breach of longstanding custom.
This, he said, would ensure the UK remains “one of the world’s leading defense powers.”
The submarine deal was first announced in September 2021 along with the foundation of the bloc itself, featuring three of the five “Five Eyes” Anglophone intelligence-sharing nations. The pact is focused on sharing military capability, including cyber, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies, but also hypersonic weapons and the nuclear-powered attack submarines in question.

Although AUKUS claims not to be focused on any specific adversary, it is plainly, by its structure and by comments from its member nations, aimed at further “containing” China in what Washington calls the “Indo-Pacific” region.

The pact’s formation resulted in Canberra canceling a deal to buy several diesel-electric submarines from France, creating a new rift in the Western alliance network. The deal was also contentious around the world because Australia is a declared nuclear-free state, without even a domestic nuclear power program, meaning all the technology will have to be imported and adapted from the United States. The Virginia-class submarines use weapons-grade uranium for fuel, further raising fears – and cries of hypocrisy – about nuclear proliferation.
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