The US is considering using Australia as a missile testing ground as part of the AUKUS military pact, AFP reported on Wednesday.
AUKUS is a three-way deal between the US, Britain, and Australia primarily focused on technology sharing with the goal of Canberra acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. The three nations have also announced their intention to jointly develop hypersonic missiles.
US Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Australia’s contribution to AUKUS “doesn’t have to be in dollars” and pointed to its vast uninhabited land as a testing ground for hypersonic and other types of long-range precision missiles.
“A challenge for us in the United States when it comes to hypersonics or even some of our things like the precision strike missile — which is not a hypersonic weapon but has very long ranges in some of its increments — for us to find open spaces in the United States where we can actually test these weapons, it’s a challenge,” Wormuth told AFP.
“Australia obviously has a tremendous amount of territory where that testing is a little bit more doable — so I think that’s a unique thing, as an example, that the Australians bring to the table,” she added.
Another aspect of AUKUS is the US plans to increase its overall military presence in Australia, which involves sending more troops, bombers, and nuclear-powered submarines to the country. The buildup is part of the US’s plans to prepare for a future war with China in the region.
Critics of AUKUS and the growing US presence in Australia argue that the arrangement will make Australia a target in a future US-China war. Wormuth said earlier this year that the US was preparing to win a war against China over Taiwan and named Australia as a place to stage weapons for the conflict.