AUKUS a response to arms race: Australia

The Indo Pacific region is in the midst of a substantial arms race that Australia is responding to, not fuelling, with its planned acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said on November 28, 2023.

The $245 billion AUKUS project with Britain and the United States to build a new class of nuclear-powered and conventionally armed submarine has been criticised by China as having the potential to spark an arms race.

In a speech in Canberra responding to domestic political criticism of the high cost and ambition of the program, which aims to build the submarines in Australia by 2040, Mr. Conroy said AUKUS (acronym for Australia, the U.K, and the U.S.) was fundamental to Australia’s defence.

A shake-up of Australia’s defence forces has prioritised protecting the continent’s northern approaches and sea trade routes, and Australia has boosted military exercises with other nations in Southeast Asia this year, including the first joint patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea on Saturday, November 25, 2023.

Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet will be used for intelligence gathering in peacetime and to strike enemy targets during a war, Mr. Conroy said.

Noteworthy, Australia has the third-largest exclusive economic zone on Earth and its diesel-electric fleet of Collins-class submarines must travel thousands of kilometres before reaching a patrol area, using more fuel in transit than on patrol, he said.

Where diesel-electric submarines spend half of their time at sea going to from a patrol area, a nuclear-powered submarine would spend 15-20% of its time in transit, he said.



AUKUS is a trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific region between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Announced on 15 September 2021, the partnership involves the US and the UK assisting Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.

The partnership also includes cooperation on advanced cyber mechanisms, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation and information sharing.

The partnership will focus on military capability, distinguishing it from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes New Zealand and Canada.