Australia plans to buy up to five nuclear submarines from the US and work with the US and UK to develop new nuclear submarines. The plan is to purchase three nuclear-powered and conventionally armed Virginia-class submarines, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday on board Air Force One. A purchase option for two more submarines is planned.
The U.S. submarines are to be delivered in the course of the 2030s, according to U.S. President Joe Biden's top national security adviser. In addition, Australia, the USA and Great Britain want to develop a new generation of nuclear submarines together. According to Sullivan, these should also be nuclear powered, but conventionally armed. The project runs under the name SSN-Aukus.
The announcement was made ahead of a meeting of Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in San Diego, California. The three countries founded the Indo-Pacific security alliance Aukus in September 2021 - a response to China's growing dominance in the region.
The central element of this alliance are nuclear-powered submarines, with which Australia wants to modernize its fleet. The deal is extremely important for Australia because the country itself does not have the know-how to build nuclear submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines can travel great distances and are difficult for the enemy to locate.
A year and a half ago, when Aukus was founded, Australia canceled a long-planned multi-billion dollar submarine deal with France. This had resulted in outraged reactions from the French government and temporarily put a massive strain on relations between Paris and Washington.
With the Aukus agreement, the USA, Great Britain and Australia want to counteract the increased influence of China in the South Pacific. The region is increasingly becoming the arena of competition between China and the United States. Beijing has been attempting to establish a larger military, political and economic presence in the South Pacific for some time.
China has sharply criticized the Aukus alliance. The government in Beijing describes it as "dangerous" and an attempt to corner China.