Submarines: Biden launches spectacular program with Australia and the United Kingdom
The project had enrage France during his announcement, in September 2021. Eighteen months later, Joe Biden unveiled the spectacular military program in the Pacific, strongly criticized by China. US President, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the head of the Australian government Anthony Albanese now have an appointment at a naval base in San Diego to formalize this project.
“Our project strengthens for decades the industrial capacity of our three nations to produce and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, it expands our submarine presence in the Indo-Pacific and contributes to global security and stability” , they assured in a joint press release.
The program will take place in three phases, the White House said in a press release, and in compliance with the principle of nuclear non-proliferation, assures the American executive.
Up to five submarines
First of all, a phase of familiarization of Australia – which has no nuclear-powered submarines, nor nuclear technology, whether military or civilian – with these machines, through the training of sailors, engineers, technicians on American and British crews, as well as in shipyards and specialist schools in the United States and the United Kingdom. The objective is to deploy, from 2027 and on a principle of rotation, four American “Virginia” class submarines and a British “Astute” class submarine on the Australian base in Perth (west).
In a second step, and subject to the green light of the American Congress, Australia will buy three American nuclear-powered submarines of the “Virginia” class, with an option on two additional submersible vessels. The submarines must be delivered from 2030.
Finally – this is the third and most ambitious stage of the program – the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom will join forces for a new generation of attack submarines, called SSN-Aukus. These submarines, nuclear-powered and conventionally armed, will involve a gigantic industrial effort in the three countries.
Built by UK and Australia
The announcements made Thursday do not give a precise figure or breakdown of the costs, in particular with regard to the sum which Australia will have to pay. It must have a new shipyard in Adelaide, in the South. The United Kingdom has already announced increases to its defense budget, as has the United States. Washington must decide whether “additional investments” are required to support this forced development, according to the press release from the American executive.
The new ships, of British design and incorporating advanced American technologies, will be built and deployed by the United Kingdom and Australia. They will be delivered from the late 2030s and early 2040s, said a senior White House official, who did not wish to be identified.
Nuclear-powered submarines are difficult to detect, can travel great distances for long periods of time, and can carry sophisticated cruise missiles. The objective, assured Monday the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, is not “to go to war” but “to deter any conflict”.
“Cold War mentality,” says China
This new military partnership, very close and very ambitious, does not, however, only make people happy. The conclusion of the Aukus alliance, with the corollary of the cancellation by Canberra of the contract for the acquisition of 12 French submarines, had given rise in 2021 to a diplomatic crisis with Francewho had cried “treason”.
The case has since settled down, by dint of intense diplomatic maneuvers, including a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the United States in early December. Joe Biden also called his French counterpart on March 7, and the two men notably, according to the White House, discussed their “cooperation” in the Indian Ocean and in Asia.
France’s indignation has given way above all to criticism from China, which is engaged with the United States in a fierce economic and strategic rivalry. “We call on the United States, Britain and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games” and “do more things to encourage regional peace and stability”, had said Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, ahead of Monday’s announcements.