Tuesday, September 20, 2022

So, AUKUS is About Submarines Down Under, Right?

As with many things in the last nine months, the bolt from the blue in the maritime national security world that was the September 2021 announcement of AUKUS - trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States - has faded from view as the more immediate and interesting Russo-Ukrainian War took the headlines.

Even without the war, as with many long-term programs that start with a flash, AUKUS would have become a background issue anyway - which is a shame.

Most are left remembering the interesting bit - nuclear submarines for the Royal Australian Navy - but is that really the most important thing about AUKUS?

Our friend Alessio Patalano over at ASPI has a nice, brief primer to tap everyone on the shoulder that, yes, we are missing the big picture;

AUKUS is not a security alliance. It holds no provision to suggest such a notion, nor were any of the steps undertaken so far aimed at making it an alliance.

AUKUS is a technology accelerator agreement for the purpose of national defence, no more, no less. It is designed to allow three countries to work closely together to translate the promise of today’s maturing technologies, such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, into tomorrow’s military edge.

So, Anglosphere tech-bros go to sea? 

This is the second reason why AUKUS matters strategically. In a context in which advanced technology will matter increasingly more to maintain a military edge, only trusted partners will be able to achieve the most from defence collaborations.


This doesn’t mean that AUKUS won’t face challenges along the way before Australia deploys nuclear-powered submarines in 2040. Implementing the agreement will put national industrial capacity under pressure. Recent comments from senior American officials suggest that the idea of building the initial submarines for Australia in the US could be problematic.

...When considered against the impact of technology on future changes in systems and sensors, the division of labour is likely to remain a major changing variable.

What is certain is that one year on, AUKUS has started to chart a clear path as to what it is and why it matters. AUKUS is set on a path about a maritime-informed worldview in which accelerating advanced technology cooperation might very well make the difference in how strategic advantages can be secured and maritime stability can be maintained.

Especially if you buy in to the early-threat-theory of the People's Republic of China, 2040 is a LONG time from now - just a little under 18-years.

However, I've been blogging for 18-years and somewhere today in Australia is a 20 to 25 year old young Royal Australian Sub-Lieutenant who may wind up in 2040 being the first CO of a RAN SSN.

Time is faster than you think. Until then - if the fighting core of the Anglosphere (and in 2022 the AUKUS nations are that fighting core, sorry Canada and New Zealand) spends that time integrating their high technology developments, whatever appears as a threat in 2040 - the Anglosphere will be better positioned to face it.

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