Britain and America are to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of an alliance to combat
China has already responded to the historic pact, denouncing it as an ‘exclusionary bloc’ and instructing the nations to shake off ‘their cold war mentality’.
Under the pact, known as AUKUS, the Royal Australian Navy will be equipped with nuclear-powered vessels, said to be unable to be discovered by enemies, for the first time.
Britain and America are to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of an unprecedented alliance known as the AUKUS pact to combat China’s naval dominance
Australia already has diesel-electric submarines but the new stealthier fleet will be faster and can stay underwater for longer, covering a greater distance without expelling traceable exhaust gases.
The new submarines, built using UK and US components, will ‘protect and defend our shared interests in the Indo- Pacific’, Downing Street said.
Britain will also share its cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea systems with allies as part of the deal, ushering in a new era of collaboration on security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains.
Staff at Rolls-Royce near Derby and BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness are expected to be involved in the design and build of the submarines. over the next 18 months, creating hundreds of highly-skilled scientific and engineering roles in the UK.
China already has a substantial number of nuclear-powered submarines. The Pentagon assessed in its 2020 China Military Power report that China has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines, including more than 130 major surface vessels.
China was not mentioned in the cross-continental briefing but there was frequent reference to the changing situation in the region.
In a live broadcast, the Prime Minister said the partnership would make the world safer
Tom Tugendhat, Conservative chairman of the Commons Foreign Committee, said: ‘The reason for all this is clear – China.’
He tweeted: ‘After years of bullying and trade hostility, and watching regional neighbours like the Philippines see encroachment into their waters, Australia didn’t have a choice.’
China’s U.S. embassy reacted, however, by saying that countries ‘should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties.’
‘In particular, they should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice,’ it said.
Australia’s plea for help to replace its ageing Collins-class subs prompted the new deal agreed by Mr Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The last time Britain and the US formally agreed collaborate on nuclear technology to build submarines was in 1958.
Although Britain has operated nuclear-powered submarines for over 60 years, Canberra has never built its own.
Australia is seen as essential to counter China’s regional influence, especially in the contested South China Sea.
The US assessed in 2020 that China has the largest navy in the world with 350 ships and subs, including more than 130 major surface vessels. Pictured: Chinese warship (stock image)
In recent years, the UK and Australia have increasingly worked together on defence, with joint training exercises.
Last night Mr Johnson said: ‘The UK, Australia and US are natural allies.
‘While we may be separated geographically, our interests and values are shared. The AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever, creating a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity.’
As part of a joint statement with the other two leaders, Mr Johnson added: ‘The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
‘For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity.
‘Today, with the formation of AUKUS, we recommit ourselves to this vision.’
In a live broadcast from Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the partnership would make the world safer.
The three countries already share extensive intelligence through the Five Eyes alliance, which also involves Canada and New Zealand.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison (C) and US President Joe Biden attend a joint press conference to announce the AUKUS partnership
It is not known when the vessels will be ready, but officials said the initial scoping phase is expected to take 18 months when it will be determined where they will be built and by whom.
Mr Johnson said Scotland and parts of the north of England and the Midlands would feel the benefit of the work on the nuclear-powered submarines, with the Government keen to exploit the Royal Navy’s decades-worth of knowledge of using such machines.
At a later press conference in Canberra, Mr Morrison said it was undecided if Australia would purchase British-built BAE Systems Astute class submarines or the Virginia class vessels constructed in the US.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and armed forces minister Florence Parly said in a statement issued by the country’s embassy in Canberra that it had taken note of Australia’s decision to halt the Future Submarine programme with France.
‘This decision is contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust and on the development of a very high-level defence industrial & technological base in Australia,’ the statement added.
Earlier this year, in the integrated review of security and foreign policy, the UK Government outlined plans for a ’tilt’ in focus to the Indo-Pacific.
Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was earlier this year deployed on a voyage East in a decision said to be about sending a message to Beijing and Russia about Britain’s military might.
The Indo-Pacific area is of particular concern due to increasing geopolitical tensions such as unresolved territorial disputes and the risk of nuclear proliferation.
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