President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom on Monday announced that Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the US in a deal estimated to total around €342 billion to modernise its fleet amid growing concern about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.
“Today, we’re announcing the steps to carry out our first project under AUKUS and developing Australia’s conventionally armed nuclear-armed submarine capacity,” President Joe Biden announced during a joint press conference in San Diego.
“From early in the next decade, Australia will take delivery of three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines. We are also proud to partner with the United Kingdom to construct the next-generation submarine, to be called SSN-AUKUS. A new, conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine based on a British design, and incorporating cutting edge Australian, UK, and US technologies,” revealed Australian PM Anthony Albanese.
The AUKUS partnership, announced in 2021, paved the way for Australia’s access to nuclear-powered submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered boats, as a counterweight to China’s military buildup.
Biden, appearing sensitive to tensions with China and its criticism of the deal, stressing that “They’re nuclear-powered – not nuclear-armed.”
“The AUKUS agreement we confirm here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in our history – strengthening Australia’s national security and stability in our region,” said Albanese.
“In the last 18 months, the challenge we face has only grown. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilising behaviour of Iran and North Korea, all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“Faced with this new reality, it’s more important than ever we strengthen the resilience of our own countries. For the first time, the United Kingdom will move away from our baseline commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence to a new ambition of 2.5%,” Sunak added.