A deal to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines would be the country’s biggest leap in defense capability in its history, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, with the US and Britain set to benefit from the partnership.
A decision will be announced in March on how Australian submarines powered by US nuclear technology will be delivered under the trilateral AUKUS agreement.
Options include the next-generation American Virginia-class submarine, the British Astute-class or a new hybrid design.
Critics argue that neither the US nor Britain have the capacity to begin delivering submarines by 2040, while Australia lacks the capacity to build them.
Albanese said on Tuesday that technology sharing among AUKUS partners will have benefits beyond submarines.
“Now this will be the biggest improvement in our defense capability in our history,” Albanese told the National Press Club, referring to Australia’s progress from the Australian-built Collins-class diesel-electric submarines that entered service a few years ago. 20 years. .
“AUKUS is more than nuclear submarines or technological interoperability. AUKUS is about the future. It further formalizes the common values and shared interests of our three countries,” Albanese said.
Albanese said the three governments are focusing on how their countries benefit from developments in submarine-building cooperation.
“The focus is recognizing that it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s one of those times where one plus one plus one equals more than three, because there’s a multiplier effect and the benefit of sharing some science and innovation,” Albanese said.
“The three countries want the three countries to be a benefit to the three countries,” he added.
Critics argue that Australia’s lack of nuclear expertise leaves it heavily dependent on its nuclear-armed partners. Australia’s only nuclear reactor is in the Sydney suburb of Lucas Heights, where it produces nuclear isotopes for medical use.
Critics argue that unlike Australia’s current home-built fleet, Australia cannot use its nuclear submarines in situations where neither the US nor Britain agree.
But Albanese said Australia would retain the authority, or sovereignty, to decide how the submarines are used.
“Australia will retain our sovereignty. “It is a decision for Australia to be a sovereign nation, just as the United States retains its sovereignty and the UK retains its sovereignty,” Albanese said.
Australia has assured its regional neighbors, who fear an arms race, that even though its submarines are nuclear-powered, they will not have nuclear weapons.
Australia currently spends 2.1% of its GDP on defence, higher than the 2% minimum former President Donald Trump demanded of US allies.
Albanese said defense spending will increase in the coming years.
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