The Biden Administration announced it will provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia amid growing tensions in the Pacific.
The deal marks the first time in national history that the American government has sold a new submarine to another nation.
President Joe Biden appeared with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a press conference in San Diego, California on March 14 to announce the deal, which was reached as part of the AUKUS security partnership.
“These boats will not have any nuclear weapons of any kind of them,” stressed Biden while speaking at Naval Base Point Loma.
Nuclear-powered submarines are considered to be stealthier than average submarines.
“If the submarines are new builds, they will be the latest Block V variant of the Virginia class,” reported Popular Mechanics. “The Block V boats are 460 feet long with a beam (width) of 34 feet. They are powered by a single General Electric S9G nuclear reactor generating 40,000 shaft horsepower with a pump jet propulsor.”
Virginia-class submarines can sail underwater or at the surface at 25 knots for an indefinite amount of time. They are therefore able to travel greater distances than conventional field alternatives.
Each submarine requires a crew of 15 officers and 120 enlisted men.
The partnership was announced in September 2021 to enhance mutual cooperation and more solidly define the UK’s presence in the region. It includes the collaborative development of the SSN-AUKUS, a submarine base operated by Australia and the United Kingdom.
As part of the submarine agreement, the U.S. will allow members of the Australian military and some civilians to embed with its Navy as well as the British Royal Navy to train.
The Biden Administration said the sale of at least three Virginia class submarines could take place in early 2030 but acknowledged the transaction must be approved by Congress. The Australian government could also buy two additional nuclear-powered submarines if needed.
“This plan is designed to support Australia’s development of the infrastructure, technical capabilities, industry and human capital necessary to produce, maintain, operate, and steward a sovereign fleet of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines,” the three nations said in a joint statement. “Australia is fully committed to responsible stewardship of naval nuclear propulsion technology.”
“Our nations are committed to further trilateral collaboration that will strengthen our joint capabilities, enhance our information and technology sharing, and integrate our industrial bases and supply chains while strengthening the security regimes of each nation,” said AUKUS. “We believe in a world that protects freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and the rules-based international order. The steps we are announcing today will help us to advance these mutually beneficial objectives in the decades to come.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on March 13 that he would increase national security and make his nation’s military a “great wall of steel,” per 9 News.
“[We must] build the People’s Liberation Army into a great wall of steel that effectively safeguards national sovereignty, security, and development interests,” Xi said while addressing the National People’s Congress.