The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom have announced a historic partnership to counter China’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. The alliance was revealed after the leaders of the three nations held a summit in San Diego, where they pledged to maintain a “free and open” Indo-Pacific.
Under the agreement, the US will sell three of its advanced Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, with the option to purchase two more if necessary. The submarines, which will be conventionally armed, will combine UK submarine technology and design with American technology. Australia’s future submarines will be based on the UK’s next-generation SSN design and will be built and deployed by both Australia and the UK.
The new partnership, known as AUKUS, represents the largest investment in Australia’s defense capability in its history, according to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The move will strengthen Australia’s national security and stability in the region, he said.
The partnership also includes plans for Australian personnel to embed with US and UK crews on submarines and at bases, as well as increased port visits to Australia. The US and UK will also establish a rotational presence of their nuclear-powered submarines in Australia later this decade.
The leaders of the three nations emphasized the importance of strengthening their own countries’ resilience in the face of growing challenges, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s assertiveness, and the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that his country will increase its defense budget by an extra £5 billion over the next two years, immediately increasing the budget to around 2.25% of GDP. This will allow the UK to replenish its war stocks, modernize its nuclear enterprise, and strengthen its deterrent.
The AUKUS partnership marks the first time in 65 years that the US has shared its nuclear propulsion technology, demonstrating the strong bond between the three nations and their commitment to maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.