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US, UK & Australia to Build SSN-AUKUS Submarines

Published: 28th Mar, 2024

Context

The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have entered a new agreement to build Australia’s SSN-AUKUS submarines and termed it a significant milestone in the endeavour of defence cooperation.

Key-highlights of the trilateral partnership

  • Under the new trilateral Security partnership, Australia’s ASC and UK-based BAE Systems will build the SSN-AUKUS submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.
  • The SSN-AUKUS will be equipped for intelligence, surveillance, undersea warfare and strike missions.
  • It will provide maximum interoperability among AUKUS partners.

1: Dimension-Why nuclear-powered submarines?

  • Submarines can either be diesel-electric or nuclear-powered and either type can be used to launch nuclear warheads.
  • Diesel-electric submarines involve diesel engines that power electric motors to propel the vessels through the water. But those engines require fuel to operate, which necessitates that the submarines resurface regularly for refuelling.
  • Nuclear-powered submarines generate their own energy source — nuclear propulsion technology — and are not as constrained by the need to refuel as diesel-electric subs. They generate steam using an onboard nuclear reactor which is used to turn the vessel’s turbines.
  • Nuclear-powered submarines can remain hidden at sea without detection — potentially for years — and are limited primarily by their supplies of food and water for crews.

2: Dimension-Why Australia want nuclear-powered submarines?

  • Australia’s submarines face long transits between ports, let alone to potential distant hot spots
  • Acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines has been described as ‘the single biggest leap’ ever in Australia’s defence capabilities.
  • Furthermore, the agreement is seen as a counterweight to China’s growing military presence in the Asia Pacific.
  • Australia does not have the expertise to build its own nuclear submarines so it had to buy or acquire the ability to build its fleet from either the US or the UK.
  • SSN-AUKUS will increase opportunities for industrial base collaboration, strengthen collective industrial base capacity, and generate economic growth in defense and national security sectors in all three countries.
  • The pact will see Australia become the seventh nation to operate nuclear-powered submarines.

3: Dimension-Impacts of the deal:

  • China’s Concern: China has always been concerned with the objectives of AUKUS. Also, the Declaration marks a new decline in Australia-China relations. China is Australia's largest trading partner, with about US $ 200 billion trading in two ways.
  • Impact on India: The partnership is very beneficial to India. As India has been at the forefront of uniting the unity of the Indo-Pacific countries.

Fact Box: AUKUS

  • AUKUS is a trilateral security partnership between the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia agreed in 2021.
  • This partnership is designed to create a stronger, more resilient trilateral submarine industrial base, supporting submarine production and maintenance in all three countries.

UPSC PYQ

1. The newly tri-nation partnership AUKUS is aimed at countering China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific regions. Is it going to supersede the existing partnerships in the region? Discuss the strength and impact of AUKUS in the present scenario (UPSC 2021)

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