Sub numbers suggested
US officials have told reporters that Australia could buy up to five Virginia class subs as part of the AUKUS deal.
More details have been revealed about the landmark defence agreement between Washington, Canberra, and London.
The AUKUS agreement will have several stages, including the visit of at least one US submarine to Australian ports in the coming years, culminating in the late 2030s with the construction of a new class of submarines based on a modified British design with American technology.
People familiar have reportedly told the AFR that Australia’s new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines will incorporate US parts and upgrades.
The provision of nuclear-powered submarines and other advanced weaponry to Australia will be discussed at a meeting between US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and Britain’s Rishi Sunak in San Diego next week.
Two officials have allegedly stated that the US would forward deploy some submarines in Western Australia around 2027 after the annual port visits. In the early 2030s, Australia will purchase three Virginia class submarines with the option to acquire two more.
The AUKUS pact, signed in September 2021, is intended to counter China’s growing naval strength in the Asia-Pacific region.
The three nations will share classified military capabilities to enable Australia to construct and deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
An announcement next week would mark a milestone in the 18-month-old agreement. The AUKUS pact is Australia’s largest-ever defence project, and it is expected to generate job opportunities in all three countries.
According to Bryan Clark, a former navy submariner who is currently the director of the Centre for Defence Concepts and Technology at Hudson Institute; “It makes sense to base or station some US submarines in Australia as a way to build the needed training and maintenance capacity in Australia. The subs will be closer to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, which helps the US submarine presence there”.
The French government said it was disappointed by the AUKUS pact because it resulted in the abandonment of its plan to build non-nuclear submarines with Australia.
China has voiced its opposition to the AUKUS pact, saying it views the agreement as a potential threat.
The Chinese government has expressed concern that the pact could lead to “military confrontation” in the region.
Charles Edel, the Australia chairman at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, says that; “By boosting capability and presence in the region, AUKUS is intended to challenge Beijing’s local military superiority, create more operational challenges for the PRC, undercut its increasingly aggressive actions, and ultimately help stabilise the region”.
The Pentagon has not officially commented on any upcoming announcement.