The two key institutions undergirding Australia’s current geostrategic settings to manage its national security needs over the next 50 years are the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue forum in which the navies of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. cooperate in the Indo-Pacific maritime space and the Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS) pact. Neither existed a decade ago. “The Quad” seemed to have been mothballed and AUKUS was not even a gleam in the eye of any of the three leaders at the time.
On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted a meeting in San Diego with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British leader Rishi Sunak to announce they had reached agreement on the path forward to implement the goal, first announced in September 2021, to create a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. Australia will initially buy three Virginia class U.S. submarines from 2032, with the option to buy another two later if desired. Australia will contribute towards expanded U.S. capacity to build the subs.
The three allies will begin work on eight next-generation Astute class British submarines, to be called AUKUS, as the world’s most advanced subs. Based on the British design and equipped with cutting-edge U.S. submarine technologies, weapons and combat systems, the ships will be built in Adelaide, with first delivery by 2042. In the meantime, Britain and the U.S. will rotate their nuclear-powered submarines into port in Perth from 2027. This two-lane “optimal pathway” addresses the capability gap in the original AUKUS announced in 2021 that envisaged a long lead time before the first subs entered into service in 2038.
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