Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Defence: Australia’s submarines will weigh heavily on its finances and diplomacy

The investment made on behalf of Australian defense was described as “historic” by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, alongside his British counterpart Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden on Monday in San Diego.

Canberra believes funding for its submarine strategy, which involves rotating US and UK submarines in its waters, purchasing 3-5 US submersibles and then building new SSN AUKUS attack submarines from by 2040, will gobble up about 0.15% of its GDP and generate 20,000 jobs. The overall amount amounts to 368 billion Australian dollars by 2055, or approximately 228.66 billion euros.

The shipyard should indeed remain in Adelaide, capital of South Australia, where the twelve French conventional submarines were to be built under the agreement broken with a bang in September 2021 during the surprise announcement of the AUKUS alliance (approximately €555 million was allocated to Naval Group in compensation).

The construction of nuclear submersibles should create 4,000 to 5,500 direct jobs there, double what was promised for the assembly of Attack-class submarines, assures the Australian Defense.

“Made in Australia”

The emphasis is therefore on ‘made in Australia’ construction with record investments in defence, skills (science, technology, cyber), employment and infrastructure. The Australian Defense assures that this is “the most transformative industrial enterprise in Australian history”.

As the country does not have nuclear technology, either civilian or military, it will have to make enormous efforts in terms of training and recruitment, but also finding solutions for the management of nuclear waste.

The strategy in this regard is much more vague, such storage only expected to occur in decades. “We benefit from large parts of the country where this is possible. We have made it clear that this will take place in a Defense Territory, whether current or future,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said.

Canberra is also careful to underline its attachment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and its desire to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Historic as it is, the tripartite nuclear program does not fail to fuel controversy both at home and on the international scene. Without naming China directly, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the plan reflected a common determination among the three Anglo-Saxon nations to “act in their sovereign interests free from coercion”. Beijing was quick to respond to the presentation of the project in the Indo-Pacific, with Moscow in its wheel, denouncing a “serious risk of nuclear proliferation”.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong tried to ease tensions by reiterating that “no one wants an escalation. Nobody wants to see a miscalculation”. “The region has the right to expect the major powers to manage competition in a respectful and appropriate manner,” urged the Malaysian native, who also intends to visit various Pacific nations to inform them of the future program.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has already reaffirmed that nuclear submarines would not be allowed to sail in his country’s territorial waters, bordering Australia.


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