AUKUS: All you want to know about the US, the UK and Austrialia’s triad

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September 17, 2021 4:38 PM

Both the US and the UK have already announced that the three countries will work together and the UK based BAE Systems as well as sharing of hi-tech expertise will be put in this project.

n this photo provided by U.S. Navy, the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786) returns home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from a deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility on Sept. 13, 2021. (AP Photo)

The big news of this week is the formation of a new military alliance of Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS).

With this new alliance, the first major initiative is helping Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines for its navy. Both the US and the UK have already announced that the three countries will work together and the UK based BAE Systems as well as sharing of hi-tech expertise will be put in this project.

This also means, as reported by Financial Express Online that the deal which was inked with the Naval Group of France to build these submarines stands cancelled. The Naval Group is helping India in building `Scorpene’ class submarines for the Indian Navy under Transfer of Technology.

The trilateral security pact was announced jointly by the three leaders – US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, virtually.

Teams from the three countries are expected to present a plan over the next 18 months for building these submarines which are going to be nuclear powered. Once Australia has these submarines, it will become the seventh country in the world to have nuclear submarines which are expected to built in Adelaide.

Though no one mentioned China, but the new military alliance is going to play a very important role in the Indo-Pacific and to address the strategic environment in the region. According to experts, the idea to ensure that the expansion of Chinese presence is curtailed.

According to reports, Chinese have reportedly deployed a range of anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles there, in the resource-rich South China Sea. It has rejected the claims of Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia, and has also defied an international tribunal decision which declared China’s claim without basis. Through the South China Sea shipping trade worth trillions of dollars passes yearly. Once upon a time China was one of Australia’s biggest trading partners. However over the years the relationship has gone sour. Because of China, Australia had pulled out of Malabar exercise with US, India and Japan.

And, 13 years later Australia is part of QUAD and has joined the Malabar exercise. Beijing has imposed economic sanctions on Australian products.

The new alliance will help in creating more jobs in the defence sector. And the submarines project which is going to take a couple of decades will require the most advanced technology. The project entails building of 12 state-of-the-art attack class submarines which was earlier meant to be built by the French company Naval Group. The French company Naval Group had signed a USD 90 billion deal in 2016, but due to several rounds of design changes, cost escalation and other delays have led to the scrapping of the deal.

Australia and NPT

These submarines are going to function with the help of enriched uranium.

Will Australia abide by the NPT?

Australia insists that there are no plans to possess nuclear weapons. It has stated publicly that it will abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

An official statement issued by the British government states that Derby-based Rolls-Royce and BAE systems will be part of this project. The reactors for Royal Navy submarines will be built by Rolls-Royce and the BAE systems through its US arm is likely to be part of the design and production of the subs.

Nuclear-powered subs Vs Diesel

This enables attack submarines to remain at sea for long. According to a former naval officer, a nuclear powered submarine can stay under water for as long as five months and operate very silently, unlike the diesel powered Collins class submarines being currently operated by Australia.

The conventional diesel-engines submarines are used for defensive operations and the nuclear-powered submarines have the ability to go very long distances without being detected and at high speed. The diesel engine submarines have batteries that keep the vessel underwater, but not for a long time.

Now there are new technologies that allow the submarines to stay under water for long periods and move faster than the conventional submarines. — Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP). The fuel cells are to be used only at the most strategic times, especially when the submarines need to stay underwater for longer period. And can be charged only on the land.

Under AUKUS, the Australian Navy will have the capability of moving silently in the South China Sea and carry out patrols and protect its assets.

Does China have nuclear powered submarines?

Yes. And also its submarines have the capability to launch nuclear missiles.

Under the AUKUS, the three countries have stated clearly that there are no plans to arm the new submarines with nuclear weapons. The US has in the past shared nuclear propulsion technology with the UK, under an agreement related to nuclear power sharing between the two countries since 1958.

Why are nuclear submarines important?

These submarines have been classified as “SSN” under the US Navy hull classification system. The “SS’’ stands for “submarine’’, and the ‘N’ is for nuclear. And, a nuclear powered submarine which has the capability of launching ballistic missile is — “SSBN”.

Paris is upset. Hits out

The scrapping of the deal for building submarines has upset France. And has been vocally expressing it at different fora.

Does India have nuclear-powered submarines?

Yes. India is one of the six countries which have SSNs. The other countries which have this include Russia, France, China, the US, and the UK.

In 1987, Soviet-built K-43 Charlie-class SSN joined the Indian Navy. This was first with the Red Fleet of the former USSR in 1967 and was leased to the Indian Navy and was named as INS Chakra and decommissioned in 1991.

India got another Russian SSN on a 10-year lease in 2012 and has been named as INS Chakra II.

And in the meantime kept strictly under wraps India was silently working on building its own SSN – INS Arihant which was commissioned in 2016. And another SSN INS Arighat was launched in 2017 and is expected to be commissioned soon.

Since INS Arihant has achieved the capability of launching nuclear weapons, in 2018 it has been categorized as SSBN and it completes India’s nuclear triad.

What does Nuclear Triad mean?

It means India now has the capability to launch nuclear weapons from land , submarine and aircraft.

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