On Monday, the US, Britain, and Australia unveiled their plans to develop nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS, a military pact the three countries signed in September 2021 to coordinate on advanced military technology against China.
President Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese formally announced the plans at the US Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. The ultimate goal is for Australia to begin producing a new type of nuclear-powered submarine known as SSN-AUKUS, but that isn’t expected to happen until the 2040s.
According to a joint statement released by the three leaders, the first part of the plan will be for Australia to embed personnel with the US Navy and the British Royal Navy for training on submarines. The US plans to increase submarine port visits to Australia, and starting in 2027, the British and American navies will begin “forward rotations” of submarines to Australia.
In the early 2030s, the US will sell three of its Virginia class submarines to Australia with the option of selling up to two more. By the late 2030s, the UK plans to deliver the first British-built SSN-Aukus submarine, followed by the Australian-produced version in the 2040s. An Australian military official said Canberra expects to spend up to $245 billion on the initiative by 2055.
Biden, Sunak, and Albanese framed the plans as necessary to uphold the so-called “rules-based order,” which means the US-dominated world order that the Western powers think Beijing’s activities in Southeast Asia threaten. “We believe in a world that protects freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and the rules-based international order,” they said in the joint statement.
The US has big plans for Australia in its preparations for a future war with China. US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro recently said that he envisions AUKUS will turn the country into a full-service submarine hub that can oversee all allied underwater activity in the Asia-Pacific. Naturally, China views AUKUS as a major provocation as the submarines will be used to patrol waters near its shores.