The alliance between Australia, Great Britain and the United States is very ambitious

The alliance between Australia, Great Britain and the United States is very ambitious

Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak (via AP)

In 1908, the second USS Missouri, an American battleship, sailed from San Francisco to Sydney as part of the Great White Fleet’s circumnavigation of Asia. Her successor, the third USS Missouri, salutes Japan’s surrender in 1945. On March 13, the fourth USS Missouri, a Virginia-class attack submarine, honors this illustrious lineage by carving its own name into history. power. .

On a hot afternoon in San Diego, Joe Biden, Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunakleaders of the United States, Australia and Britain, met off Missouri and revealed the next chapter of the aukus pact signed by their countries 18 months ago. The resulting agreement will intensify US and UK involvement in the Pacific and unite the three allies in an unprecedented way, into the 2040s and beyond.

This saga began in 2016, when Australia struck a $33 billion deal to replace its aging Collins-class attack submarines with a dozen French diesel-electric boats. In 2021, increasingly aware of the Chinese threat, broke that deal and signed AUKUS to much fanfare. In its terms, the United States and Britain would help Australia build a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines (but not with nukes). These have much more range, stamina and stealth than electric ships (see map). They are also much more complex. Only six countries have it and so far the US has only shared the technology with Britain.

Many expected Australia’s future submarine to be modeled after the current US Virginia-class submarine or its future successor. However, Biden, Albanese and Sunak revealed that it will in fact be based on the future British attack submarine, a hypothetical ship known as ssnr (“ssns” are attack submarines , which carry conventional weapons and hunt other submarines and ships, as opposed to “ssbns”, carriers of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles). Britain will build the first ships at Barrow in the North West of England. Australia will learn from prototypes and then build its own in Adelaide. The idea is to create an economy of scale, with Australian investment increasing British shipbuilding capacity and a larger overall order reducing costs for both countries.

American technology will permeate this new “ssn-AUKUS”. The United States will bring its vertical launch system, a set of tubes that can accommodate a greater number of missiles, and more advanced, than traditional torpedo tubes. No British attack submarine has ever had this capability. The defense industries of the three countries will be intertwined to an unprecedented degree. Subsystems such as communication equipment, sonar and fire control will have to be compatible between the Anglo-Australian ship and the future American ship. “We will be almost a joint force of nuclear submarines“says an official involved in the pact. It will be a “beautiful mixed submarine”, exhales another.

Virginia-class submarine (Reuters/File)
Virginia-class submarine (Reuters/File)

But, as with whisky, high-end underproduction is measured in double-digit years. The current Australian ships are around 30 years old and will need to be retired in the early 2030s. The first ssn-AUKUS will not be in Australian hands until the early 2040s.. In the U.S. Navy, it takes at least 15 years to train a submarine commander, says Tom Shugart, who rose to the job himself, in part because of the complexity of training officers in the use and maintenance of nuclear propulsion systems. The Chinese navy, already the largest in the world, looks dangerous. To bridge the gap, the three leaders announced two more pioneering measures.

First, from 2027, the United States and Great Britain will deploy their own submarines in the Pacific in one plan, some officials call an “enhanced rotating presence,” a deliberate nod to NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” of armored battle groups in Eastern Europe. According to one official, The United States usually has between two and four attack submarines in Asia at any one time. With the new configuration, the United States will send up to four Virginia-class submarines at Hmas Stirling, near Perth, an important and relatively visible step that will necessitate the end of a long-standing policy of near absolute secrecy over submarine deployments. Britain plans to relocate one of its Astute-class submarines, out of a planned fleet of just seven. Australian sailors have already started to integrate with American and British submarines.

Second, in the early 2030s, and assuming Congress approves it, Australia will buy three Virginia-class submarines from the United States at a reduced price, with an option for two more, as a temporary ship to be used until the appearance of the ssn-AUKUS. It is surprising that the United States accepted this. Hiring a nuclear submarine is very rare: only Russia has ever done it, India. Australia has struggled to man its current submarines, which carry fewer than 60 people; the Virginia class needs 140 or more. More importantly, the US Navy is still struggling to produce enough Virginia-class submarines for itself in its race to close the gap with China. To alleviate this problem, Australia expected to invest billions in US shipyards. Still, many members of Congress may be unhappy with the headset’s hijacking. And U.S. lawmakers may need to amend the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which impose strict limits on high-tech exports, even to close allies.

The bone the risks are many. The draft will have to endure at least three US presidential terms beyond Mr Biden’s current one and more than three UK elections, a stern test, even though it currently enjoys bipartisan support in all three countries. The cost to Australia could be $180-245 billion over the next 32 years, including $6 billion over the next two years., according to the first estimates. It will be great for Australia to produce the skilled workforce and nuclear knowledge needed. “This is a potential 100-year effort,” observed Peter Malinauskas, Prime Minister of South Australia, whose capital is Adelaide, on March 10.

But the reward will be great. For Britain, it’s not just about boosting the morale of a submarine industry struggling with stalled construction. It also gives real content to the “swing” desired by the government towards the Indo-Pacific. Critics had questioned the wisdom of emphasizing naval power in Asia while a land war was being fought in Europe. On March 10, he agreed with Emmanuel Macron, President of France, that the two countries would establish “the backbone of a permanent European maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific” by coordinating the deployment of their aircraft carriers. On March 13, the Sunak government released a mini-review of its foreign policy, emphasizing China’s “marking” challenge. The decision to rotate the subs around Asia and build new ones with an Asian ally gives the tilt additional long-term footing.

The Virginia-class USS North Dakota (Reuters/US Navy)
The Virginia-class USS North Dakota (Reuters/US Navy)

For the United States, AUKUS and related agreements are the latest and most dramatic step in the continued consolidation of Asian alliances. It is likely to sell hundreds of cruise missiles to Japan and in January agreed to station a marine regiment in Okinawa. Access to four additional military bases in the Philippines was granted in February. AUKUS also includes a second “pillar” of collaboration on advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum systems and hypersonic missiles. And it’s part of a wider boom in US-Australian defense relations.

The United States has invested colossal sums in Australia: stockpiling fuel and ammunition, and expanding airfields so that long-range bombers can operate from the north of the country, out of range of most Chinese missiles. . Australian investment in naval bases around Perth to support rotating US and UK submarine deployments will make it easier to maintain, repair and resupply ships without having to travel to Guam or Hawaii, allowing a pace faster operations in times of peace and war.

The fact that AUKUS survived last year’s transition from Australia’s centre-right Liberal Party to Mr Albanese’s centre-left Labor Party reflects the consensus that there is currently in Australian politics the Chinese threat and the need to take drastic measures to deal with it. A 2020 defense review concluded that the prospect of a major war was “less remote than in the past” and that the government could no longer be assured of a ten-year warning of its imminent outbreak. (A new defense review by a former defense minister and military leader was submitted to the government in February, but has yet to be published.)

Australia cannot currently attack a target or protect an expeditionary force more than 150 km from its landmass, says Ashley Townshend, an Australian scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington think tank. His new submarines, he says, will give him “escalation options” in regional crises where Australian leaders might want to “deter or defeat” a Chinese military presence – for example, in Southeast Asia or the the South Pacific – but lack the confidence to do so without the cover of a mobile strike force. “It will be an Australian sovereign capability,” Albanese stressed, “built by Australians, commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy and supported by Australian workers in Australian shipyards.”

But the scenario that weighs most heavily on US planners is a major war for Taiwan. “AUKUS has one main objective,” Biden said before Missouri: “increase stability in the Indo-Pacific amid rapidly changing global dynamics”. A US-Australia pact in 2021 specified the purpose of all these investments in Australian facilities: “to support high-level warfare and combined military operations in the region”. Eight additional missile submarines prowling the South and East China Seas would make it much harder for China to push an invasion force through the Taiwan Strait.

This will contribute to deterrence. Equally significant is that he developed the Anglophone military alliance in Asia to the point of no return. Australian ports, bases and potentially submarines will increasingly feature in US war plans. According to Townshend, this gives Australia leverage over these plans. It also limits your options. “It is an extremely costly sign of our willingness to contribute to the collective deterrence of China. To back down would cause an unimaginable rift in the alliance, and that is precisely why Beijing will take it seriously.

© The Economist

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.For tips or news submission: