Great Britain plays a larger role than planned in the submarine deal with Aukus
Britain will play a bigger role in a security pact with the US to supply Australia with nuclear submarines than was envisaged 18 months ago when the countries began negotiations on the Aukus deal, according to several people familiar with the deal .
Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister, told colleagues on Wednesday that the so-called Aukus negotiations had been a success for Britain, with one minister noting that “the deal has definitely gone our way”.
“The prime minister gushed about it as he told ministers, smiling and jumping on the balls of his feet,” the minister added.
Sunak, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will present the deal in San Diego on Monday.
First announced in 2021, the Aukus Pact aims to help Australia secure nuclear-powered submarines as part of a broader push against Chinese military might that will also see the three nations eventually working together in areas like hypersonic weapons.
Monday’s announcement is expected to include details about the design of the submarines, as well as how and where they will be built.
Early indications were that Australia would choose either a US design based on the current Virginia class or a British design based on its Astute submarines.
Recently, however, attention has shifted to whether the submarines will be based on a variant of the British design for its next generation of submarines, which will replace the Astute class.
Industry sources would only say on Wednesday that it will be a “hybrid” platform based on a “pragmatic” design. Military experts have said the submarines will rely heavily on US combat and weapons systems.
Negotiators struggled to reach an agreement that would allow all members of the Pact to claim some sort of victory.
A Downing Street aide said they “could not forestall any future announcements”.
One of the big questions surrounding the deal was how the US and UK, both with limited submarine building capabilities, would be able to construct a program that would help Australia without the capacity of their own reduce domestic industries.
In January, Jack Reed, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his then-Republican counterpart, Jim Inhofe, wrote to the Biden administration warning of the need to ensure the US submarine industrial base does not reach a “stress point.”
The two senators said they were concerned a plan to help the US and its allies with operations in the Indo-Pacific could become a “zero-sum game” over scarce resources.
“There is no free submarine capacity to do exports or add another customer. Both the UK and US are keen to deliver their own programmes,” said Nick Childs, Senior Fellow in Naval Forces and Maritime Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“There will be tremendous demand for all parties involved to recruit and qualify their industrial base as well as the operational side,” added Childs.
BAE Systems, which builds all of the Royal Navy’s submarines at its Barrow-in-Furness site in Cumbria, north-west England, is building the last two Astute-class boats, of a total of seven, for the UK.
Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense secretary, said in January Britain would increase jobs at Barrow from 10,000 to 17,000 to meet both the dreadnought program to implement the country’s nuclear deterrent and next-generation design after the Astutes .
In the United States, General Dynamics Electric Boat, which manufactures Columbia- and Virginia-class submarines, employs almost 20,000 people. The US company has 17 Virginia-class submarines in the backlog, which should be delivered by 2032.
Reporting by Jim Pickard, Sylvia Pfeifer, Demetri Sevastopulo, John Paul Rathbone
https://www.ft.com/content/da99da6a-71da-43d1-b1d7-6bab75d85c01 Great Britain plays a larger role than planned in the submarine deal with Aukus