AUKUS: US should sell Australia at least 4 nuclear-powered submarines
Australia is considering buying at least four Virginia-class nuclear submarines from the United States, three sources familiar with the matter have said, in an emerging defense partnership widely seen as a bid to counter military ambitions of China in the Pacific.
Delivery of the submarines is not likely for years, potentially in the 2030s, but the expected announcement will serve as a demonstration of the progress of the AUKUS group, made up of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. .
CNN asked the Australian Embassy in Washington for comment on the planned purchase, which Reuters first reported.
The Virginia-class is the Navy’s latest fast-attack submarine, intended to replace the aging fleet of Los Angeles-class submarines. Unlike ballistic missile submarines, which are part of the US nuclear arsenal, fast attack submarines can use a number of different weapons, including torpedoes and cruise missiles. Submarines can also transport special operations forces and perform intelligence and reconnaissance missions.
Australia is also expected to work with the UK on the development of a new class of nuclear-powered submarines, which could include US parts, the sources said, as the three countries move forward with defense partnership.
President Joe Biden will host the Australian and British prime ministers in California next week to discuss the next steps of the partnership, sources familiar with the plans have said.
After announcing the AUKUS partnership in 2021, officials from the three countries drew up plans to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, including legal issues related to the transfer of classified technology and the training of Australian sailors on submarines.
As part of the announcement, US submarines are expected to increase their visits to Australian ports in the coming years ahead of the eventual delivery of new Australian submarines.
By purchasing American Virginia-class submarines while developing submarines based on a British design, both American and British industrial bases will benefit.
The AUKUS partnership is designed as a way to increase security in the Pacific region amid rising tensions with China.
In San Diego on Monday, Biden is expected to discuss the plan with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Both will visit the United States for the first time since taking office. San Diego hosts a large US naval presence, including submarines, for the Pacific Fleet.
Negotiations have been ongoing for more than a year on nuclear-powered submarines, which caused consternation when announced as it scuttled Australia’s plans to buy conventional submarines from France.
Biden at the time called the deployment of the AUKUS submarine plan “clumsy.”