Australia, US, UK unveil nuclear submarine plan

Australia, US, UK unveil nuclear submarine plan

Australia will buy as many as five US nuclear-powered submarines and later build a new model with US and British technology under an ambitious plan to beef up Western muscle across the Asia-Pacific in the face of a rising China, a US official said Monday.

President Joe Biden was hosting his Australian and British counterparts, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, on a US naval base in San Diego, California, to announce the plan.

Australia, which joined the newly formed AUKUS group with Washington and London 18 months ago, will not be getting nuclear weapons. However, with nuclear propulsion, the new submarine fleet will add substantial new strength to the Western alliance seeking to push back against China's own military expansion.

Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters flying on Air Force One to California that the submarine plan illustrated Washington's long-term commitment to guarding "peace and stability" in the Asia-Pacific region.

The partnership with Australia, which involves sharing secret nuclear technology previously only given to Britain, is "a decades-long, maybe a century-long commitment," Sullivan said.

Three conventionally armed, nuclear-powered Virginia class vessels will be sold "over the course of the 2030s," with the "possibility of going up to five if that is needed," Sullivan said.

Compared to the Collins-class submarines due to be retired by Australia, the Virginia-class is almost twice as long and carries 132 crew, not 48.

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