Meeting on Monday at a naval base in San Diego, in the US state of California, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and Australia, Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, finally revealed the its plans to supply nuclear-powered submarines to the Australian Navy.
The sharing of American nuclear propulsion technology was defined as the main objective of the creation of the AUKUS, in 2021, a trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific, which is, however, seen as a tool of containment of the People’s Republic of China in its extended vicinity.
According to the calendar defined by the three allies, and after a series of trips by American and British submarines to Australian ports from 2027 – for training sessions, among other military and logistical objectives –, Australia will buy three Virginia nuclear submarines from USA in 2030, with the possibility of acquiring two more in the future.
Afterwards, a joint initiative by the three countries will allow the production of a new generation of submarines. They will be British-made (BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce), with American technology and essentially Australian funding. Delivery of the first SSN-AUKUS submarines is scheduled for the early 2040s.
Compared to traditional submarines powered by diesel or electricity, nuclear submarines are faster, quieter and have a much greater durability. They allow coverage of a wider maritime area and more distant from the territory from which they were launched and have a greater capacity to transport weapons, namely missiles.
The program will cost Canberra A$368 billion by 2055 (about of 230 billion euros).
“The AUKUS agreement, which we ratify here in San Diego, represents the largest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in its entire history, strengthening its national security and stability in our region,” said Albanese during the ceremony. presentation of AUKUS plans.
Despite the unprecedented costs, the Australian Prime Minister said, however, that it is “an economic plan, not just a defense and security plan”, adding that it will create 20,000 new jobs over the next 30 years. years.
The host, Joe Biden, welcomed the new steps being taken by the joint initiative, saying that the alliance will be able to continue to guarantee freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific.
“By forging this new partnership, we are demonstrating, once again, how democracies can deliver security and prosperity. Not just for them, but for the entire world,” said the US President.
Along the same lines, the British Prime Minister underlined the fact that “for the first time” there could be “three fleets of submarines working together along the Atlantic and Pacific”, to “keep our oceans free” for the “next decades”.
The announcement by the AUKUS allies was praised by the Governments of Japan and Taiwan, among other Western allies in the region, but was criticized by China.
“[Os planos] constitute serious risks of nuclear proliferation, call into question the international non-proliferation system, fuel arms races and threaten peace and stability”, reacted the Chinese permanent mission to the United Nations, via Twitter.
Anticipating these criticisms, in his speech in San Diego, Biden made a point of clarifying that nuclear energy will only be used as a transport technology and not for armament: “The vessels will not have nuclear weapons of any kind.”
Hours before the meeting between Biden, Sunak and Albanese in the US, the Sunak Government announced a review of its foreign and defense policy, in which it labels China as a “systemic and era-defining challenge, with implications in almost all areas of Government policy and in the daily lives of the British people”.