British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the AUKUS deal as the most important defense partnership in generations, as he joined Anthony Albanese and Joe Biden in Tuesday’s announcement.
The three leaders met in San Diego aboard the battleship USS Missouri for the historic announcement.
Australia will command a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines within the next three decades under a fast-track plan that will cost up to $368 billion.
The Albanese Prime Minister said the announcement marked a new chapter in the relationship between the three nations. Australia, the US and Britain had entered into a friendship built “on our shared values… for a peaceful and prosperous future.”
AUKUS was the “largest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in its entire history,” Albanese said.
“Already, today, Australians are upgrading their nuclear technology and management skills alongside their British and American counterparts,” he said.
The US president confirmed that the US would send three Virginia-class submarines to Australia, with the potential to sell up to two more if necessary.
Biden said the last thing that could be done was a new design, dubbed the SSN-Aukus, that would combine British submarines and design with American technology.
“I want to be clear to everyone from the beginning,” Biden said.
“These submarines do not have nuclear weapons, but nuclear propulsion.
“Australia is a proud nuclear-free state and is committed to remaining so.”
Sunak said Tuesday’s announcement followed a speech by then-US President John F. Kennedy in San Diego in which he spoke of a higher purpose: freedom, peace and security.
“Today we are united by that same purpose and to fulfill it we must forge the same types of new relationships to face new types of challenges,” he said.
“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, Iran’s and North Korea’s destabilizing behavior all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division.”
Sunak said he would go further to build resilience.
“For the first time, the UK will move away from the baseline commitment of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defense to a new ambition of 2.5 per cent, leaving it beyond doubt that the UK is, and will continue to be, one of the largest countries in the world. the main defense powers.
He said that AUKUS was the “most important multilateral military defense association in generations.”
Under the deal finally confirmed on Tuesday, Canberra will procure three Virginia-class nuclear submarines from the US as an interim measure from about 2033 before a new SSN AUKUS-class hybrid vessel arrives in Australian waters a decade later.
The cost to taxpayers of the trilateral deal with the US and Britain will amount to between $268 and $368 billion over the next three decades.
The plan will take $9 billion of the budget bottom line over the next four years and $50-58 billion within a decade.
The annual cost will then be around 0.15 percent of GDP until the mid-2050s. But there are already caveats about forecast accuracy due to the unpredictability of inflation three decades from now.
A US submarine for Australia will roll off the production line every three years before the new AUKUS class is built at a similar rate from 2042. The sale will need congressional approval.
Australia’s current Collins-class submarines are due to go out of service in the late 2030s.
The plan ensures that Australia will always have a core fleet of six submarines and will have the option to purchase two additional Virginia-class submarines in the event of delays.
The nuclear-powered submarines can stay at sea as long as the crew has food, extending Australia’s capacity for the weeks the Collins-class can stay underwater.
Britain will build and operate the first AUKUS submarine from the late 2030s and procure between eight and 12 of the same type.
The British design found favor over the American, with the Virginia class set to stop production in the mid-2040s and Australia requiring a continued solution.
It is estimated that between 100 and 110 people will be needed to crew the new AUKUS class, significantly more than the 60 needed to command Australia’s Collins submarines.
Four US nuclear-powered submarines and one UK ship will begin rotating Western Australian naval bases from 2027 to boost Australia’s ability to operate its own vessels in the 2030s and 2040s.
An increase in visits by US and UK nuclear submarines will also begin next year.
Shipbuilders from Adelaide and Western Australia will join those from the United States and Britain to help build the new submarines, and improvements to the shipyards will begin this year.
The radioactive waste will be managed in Australia, prompting protests from environmental activists.
Albanese said the partnership was about strengthening national security and stability in the region.
“For more than a century, brave citizens of our three countries have been part of a shared tradition of service to the cause of peace and sacrifice in the name of freedom,” he said.
“While we respect and honor the past, through AUKUS, we turn to the future.”
Biden said the agreement was a testament to the strong ties between the three nations.
“As we stand at the turning point of history… The United States could not ask for better partners in the Indo-Pacific, where much of our shared future will be written,” he said.