Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have reach a ‘landmark defence and security agreement,’ whose significance will be felt in the Indo Pacific region for decades to come.

The AUKUS agreement sees the US and UK for the first time agree to share their nuclear propulsion submarine technology with Australia.

This will allow Australia to build a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered attack class submarines to counter the growing threat of China.

AUKUS agreement

And buried within this announcement was confirmation that the UK and the US will be sharing with Australia their expertise in cyber, AI and even quantum computing.

“AUKUS will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains,” said the UK government.

However, the first initiative of the AUKUS agreement is to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

It is momentous agreement, as the United States has only ever shared its nuclear propulsion submarine technology with one country – the United Kingdom in the 1950s.

That said, there are other nations that operate nuclear-powered submarines including UK, US, Russia, China, India, and Brazil.

But until now, only the US and UK have shared their own nuclear propulsion submarine technology with each other.

“I’m delighted to join President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison to announce that the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States are creating a new trilateral defence partnership, known as AUKUS, with the aim of working hand-in-glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“We are opening a new chapter in our friendship, and the first task of this partnership will be to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, emphasising of course that the submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors, not armed with nuclear weapons, and our work will be fully in line with our non-proliferation obligations,” said Johnson.

“This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting for decades and requiring the most advanced technology,” said Johnson. “It will draw on the expertise that the UK has acquired over generations, dating back to the launch of the Royal Navy’s first nuclear submarine over 60 years ago.”

“And together with the other opportunities from AUKUS, creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom – including in Scotland, the North of England and the Midlands – taking forward this Government’s driving purpose of levelling up across the whole country,” said Johnson.

Cyber, AI, Quantum

The decision to include Australia within their long partnership is a sign of the growing concern within Western circles at Beijing’s increasing militarism, its debt diplomacy and sanctioned cyberbullying.

During the press conference announcing the agreement, President Joe Biden said that besides the submarine technology, there will be a cyber element as well.

While the US President did not elaborate on this during the press conference, it is clear that the United States and the UK will be assisting Australia in developing their cyber defensive and possibly cyber offensive capabilities.

Australia has suffered some notable cyberattacks in recent years.

One of the most notable was in June 2020 when the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, publicly confirmed his country was the target of a “sophisticated” cyber attack.

The Aussie PM warned that an unnamed foreign government was behind it, with the finger of suspicion firmly pointed at China.

Scott Morrison confirmed he had spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the attack, and it is not disclosed whether the UK provided its cyber expertise to the Australians.

Prior to that in February 2019 the country suffered ‘nation state hack’ of Australian political parties and parliament.

“Recognising our deep defense ties, built over decades, today we also embark on further trilateral collaboration under AUKUS to enhance our joint capabilities and interoperability,” said the UK government, before it confirmed the agreement included cyber and tech issues.

“These initial efforts will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities,” said the UK Government.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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