US, UK, Australia leaders reveal AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal

Washington, Mar 13 (EFE).- The leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in San Diego on Monday revealed their plan for the acquisition and development of nuclear-powered submarines within the framework of the AUKUS security pact, seen as a counterweight to the growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The president of the US, Joe Biden, and the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Australia, Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, unveiled the details of the “interoperable” submarines in the first concrete move of the AUKUS (Australia/United Kingdom/United States) alliance.

“The United States has safeguarded stability in the Indo-Pacific for decades to the enormous benefits of nations throughout the region,” said Biden, who claimed the US as a “Pacific power” with authority to defend, among other things, freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific.

Under the agreement, Australia will purchase up to three Virginia-class single-jet submarines from the US during the early 2030s, with the option to purchase two more if necessary, bringing the total to five.

For the first time in 65 years, Biden said, the US will share the technology at the heart of its nuclear-powered submarines with another country, allowing Australia to build its own.

The multi-phase submarine development project will use UK submarine technology and design with American technology that will culminate in the Australian production and will be named SSN-AUKUS.

“I want to reiterate again: The SSN-AUKUS will not have nuclear weapons,” Biden said.

Britain will have the SSN-AUKUS submarines ready by the end of the 2030s, while Australia will finish manufacturing them in the 2040s, according to a joint statement from the three leaders.

The idea is to build “truly interoperable” submarines between the three Navies, Sunak said.

“The Royal Navy will operate the same submarines as the Australian Navy, and we will both share components and parts with the US Navy. Our submarine crews will train together, patrol together, and maintain their boats together. They will communicate using the same terminology and the same equipment,” he said.

“For the first time ever, it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across both the Atlantic and Pacific, keeping our oceans free, open, and prosperous for decades to come.”

Albanese affirmed that the AUKUS agreement will open “new frontiers” for the three countries with new technological innovations and the desire to guarantee a “peaceful and a prosperous future.”

Australia’s government estimates the submarine program will cost AU$268-$368 billion over the next 30 years, according to public broadcaster ABC.

“The AUKUS agreement we confirm here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in all of our history, strengthening Australia’s national security and stability in our region; building a future made in Australia with record investments in skills, jobs, and infrastructure; and delivering a superior defense capability into the future,” he said.

The Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines are powered by a nuclear reactor, which allows them to operate at higher speeds and spend more time underwater than conventional diesel-powered submarines.

The AUKUS pact was announced on Sep. 15, 2021 and sparked a diplomatic crisis between Australia and France because it involved the cancellation of a contract with France’s Naval Group for the development of conventional submersibles for Canberra.

Although the signatory countries did not expressly mentioned China, the pact is considered an alliance to counteract Beijing’s influence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, the scene of tensions in the South China Sea and in Taiwan, which the Chinese government considers a rebel territory.

The new submarines will mark Australia’s entry into the club of nations with nuclear-powered submersibles, which includes the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and India. EFE


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