Australia’s plans to purchase at least four nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines from the United States is seen as a move to counter China’s military ambitions in the Pacific. While the delivery of the submarines may not happen until the 2030s, the expected announcement will serve as a demonstration of progress by the AUKUS grouping, made up of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has emphasized that his country will retain “absolute sovereignty” when it comes to control of the submarines acquired through the AUKUS partnership.
The Virginia-class submarines are the latest fast attack submarines in the US Navy and are intended to replace the aging fleet of Los Angeles-class submarines. These submarines are capable of employing various weapons, including torpedoes and cruise missiles. They can also carry out intelligence and reconnaissance missions, as well as transport special operations forces.
Aside from purchasing the Virginia-class submarines, Australia is also expected to work with the United Kingdom on developing a new class of nuclear-powered submarines that may include US parts, according to sources. This move is part of the three countries’ efforts to strengthen their defense partnership.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Australian Prime Minister Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego next week to discuss the next steps in the AUKUS partnership. The negotiations for the nuclear-powered submarines have been ongoing for more than a year, including resolving legal issues in transferring classified technology and training Australian sailors on the submarines.
While the AUKUS partnership has been met with some controversy, the three countries are pushing through with their plans to increase security in the Pacific region amid escalating tensions with China.