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United States signals unwavering commitment to AUKUS cooperation

Sailors assigned to the fast-attack submarine USS Asheville salute the American flag after arriving at the Royal Australian Navy base HMAS Stirling on Garden Island, Australia, 27 February 2023. The Asheville is on patrol supporting national security interests in the US’ 7th Fleet area of operations. Photo: Australia Department of Defense

The United States has signalled an “unwavering commitment” to AUKUS in a recent statement regarding the trilateral defence pact with the United Kingdom and Australia.

The United States has signalled an “unwavering commitment” to AUKUS in a recent statement regarding the trilateral defence pact with the United Kingdom and Australia.

Leaders from each country met in San Diego during March last year to announce the Optimal Pathway of strengthening combined military capabilities, boosting collective industrial capacity, setting the highest non-proliferation standard, and enhancing ability to promote stability and security internationally and in the Indo-Pacific.

Under the agreement, conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability would be delivered to the Royal Australian Navy.

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“Our commitment to AUKUS is unwavering,” said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh during a press briefing on 21 March this year.

“We are in the process of now going through our financial year 2025 budget proposal to Congress, and we still don’t have a supplemental passed by Congress.

“The quicker, the faster that we can get a budget approved by Congress, we’re going to meet those benchmarks (for assisting delivery of SSNs) and we’re going to meet those timelines.

“If we experience delays, like we are experiencing right now, we’re operating with one hand tied behind our back and, you know, we certainly could fall behind.”

AUKUS partners have welcomed the announcement of the selection of ASC and BAE Systems to build Australia’s SSN-AUKUS submarines, and the selection of ASC as Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine sustainment partner.

Under the recent announcement, the ASC and BAE Systems will build the SSN-AUKUS submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

Australia has agreed to a $1.5 billion investment for early priority works at HMAS Stirling, to put in place the enablers for the safe and secure rotational presence of United Kingdom and United States SSNs through Submarine Rotational Force-West from 2027.

Australia has also commenced enabling works at the future nuclear-powered submarine construction yard at Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, totalling a commitment of at least $18 billion in infrastructure upgrades across South Australia and Western Australia over the next 10 years to enable critical milestones for the Optimal Pathway.

The United States has announced the intended investment of US$11.4 billion in its submarine industrial base across the five-year defence budget period starting in 2025 to increase the production rate of Virginia Class submarines as quickly and effectively as possible to meet its own fleet requirements and support US commitments under AUKUS.

The United Kingdom also announced last year that it would inject £3 billion into its Defence Nuclear Enterprise, including the construction of submarine industrial infrastructure that will help to deliver the SSN-AUKUS program. Subsequently, Rolls-Royce has announced that it will double the size of its Derby site to support the delivery of the UK and Australian programs, which will include building all of Australia’s nuclear reactors.

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