‘AUKUS Goes Hypersonic’ – After Nuke Subs, US, UK Australia Agree To Work On Hypersonics, Electronic Warfare

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) agreed to begin trilateral cooperation on the development of new hypersonic and electronic warfare capabilities, the leaders of the three countries said in a joint statement.

“The AUKUS partners will work together to accelerate the development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities,” the statement said on Tuesday.

The AUKUS partners will also cooperate on developing enhanced techniques to operate in an electronic warfare environment, the statement added.

The three countries are also collaborating on autonomous underwater vehicles, initial trials and experimentation of this capability is planned for 2023, the statement said.

The three leaders – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and US President Joe Biden today reviewed progress under the AUKUS pact, the joint statement released by the White House said.

Multiple senior-level meetings have taken place since the announcement of the AUKUS pact on September 15, 2021, to advance trilateral work on providing Australia with US nuclear-powered submarines and developing other advanced military capabilities, the statement said.

File Image: Hypersonic Weapon

The leaders also said they are pleased with the progress in their trilateral program for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability.

The White House said in a separate press release that initial steps are underway to ensure Australia has a workforce with the necessary skills, training, and qualifications to build, operate, and sustain conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines. A group of Australian personnel have begun school and training in nuclear science and engineering, the release added.

Moreover, combined teams from the three countries have visited multiple sites in Australia to baseline its nuclear stewardship, infrastructure, workforce, and industrial capabilities and requirements, the release said.

The Australian government is also in the initial process to secure additional land on which to build the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Construction Yard, according to the release. The three heads of state, in addition, vowed to deepen cooperation on artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.

The US and Australia already have a hypersonic weapon program called SCIFiRE, and UK officials said that though the UK would not join that program at this point, the three countries would work together on research and development in the area to increase their options.

Dark Eagle-hypersonic
File Image: Dark Eagle-Hypersonic Missile

China, Russia Unhappy With AUKUS

Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun said on Tuesday regarding the announcement by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) they will cooperate on developing hypersonic weapons that countries should avoid creating another Ukraine-like crisis.

“Anyone who does not want to see the Ukrainian crisis should refrain from doing things that may lead the other parts of the world into a crisis like this,” Zhang said. “[A]s the Chinese saying goes, if you do not like it, do not impose it against the others.”

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, had earlier said at a meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission that the AUKUS alliance creates prerequisites for the start of a new round of the arms race and does this not only in the Asia-Pacific region,

“The situation around the establishment of the AUKUS partnership by Australia, Great Britain and the United States, including in terms of its negative impact on the nuclear non-proliferation regime, causes concern,” Polyanskiy said.

“We believe this partnership provokes tension in the sphere of international security, forms prerequisites for the start of a new round of the arms race, and not only in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

File Image: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping

Earlier,  Russia and China had said that they were concerned about the establishment of the trilateral security partnership by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, as this action affects the strategic stability and goes out of tune with the security agenda in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The sides are seriously concerned about the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom (AUKUS), which provides for deeper cooperation between its members in areas involving strategic stability, in particular their decision to initiate cooperation in the field of nuclear-powered submarines,” Moscow and Beijing said in a joint declaration.

The sides expressed their mutual understanding that “such actions are contrary to the objectives of security and sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region, increase the danger of an arms race in the region, and pose serious risks of nuclear proliferation.”

Moscow and Beijing opposed these actions and called on AUKUS to adhere to their commitment to nuclear and missile nonproliferation and to jointly maintain peace and stability in the region.

In mid-September of 2021, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia unveiled their trilateral defense pact, which saw Canberra ditch a bilateral $66 billion submarine deal with Paris, which condemned the move as a betrayal of trust between the states. On December 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed that the AUKUS partnership undermines nuclear balance and increases tensions in the region.