Australia will receive conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines under an agreement announced following a Monday meeting of the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese struck the deal at the North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, Calif.
“When we announced the AUKUS partnership in September 2021, we committed to set the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard,” the leaders said in a joint statement referencing a strategic alliance among the countries. “The plan we announce today delivers on this commitment and reflects our longstanding leadership in, and respect for, the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.”
Speaking after the meeting, Albanese said the agreement “represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in all of our history.” He thanked the U.S. for sharing its nuclear propulsion technology for only the second time in history.
The trio agreed to consult with the International Atomic Energy Agency “to develop a non-proliferation approach that sets the strongest precedent for the acquisition of a nuclear-powered submarine capability.”
The submarines will be modeled after the United Kingdom’s next-generation nuclear submarine design and include up-to-date U.S. technology. Known as “SSN-AUKUS” after the strategic partnership among the countries, they will be built and used by both the U.K. and Australia.
The U.K. is slated to deliver its first submarines in the late 2030s. Australia is set to deliver its first underwater craft to the U.K. in the early 2040s.
Starting this year, Australian military and civilian personnel will be embedded with members of the U.S. and U.K. navies to best learn the technology, eventually holding rotations docking the submarines with Australia beginning in 2027.
Pending congressional approval, the U.S. will seek to sell Australia three Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines beginning in the early 2030s. The U.S. is willing to sell up to five submarines, if needed.
“This first project is only the beginning. More partnerships, more potential for peace and security in the region lies ahead,” Biden said after the meeting. “Simply stated, we’re putting ourselves in the strongest possible position to navigate the challenges of today and tomorrow, together.”