WASHINGTONReuters) – Australia is expected to buy up to five U.S. Virginia class nuclear powered submarines in the 2030’s as part of a landmark defense agreement between Washington, Canberra and London, four U.S. officials said.
The agreement, known as the AUKUS pact, will have multiple stages with at least one U.S. submarine visiting Australian ports in the coming years and end in the late 2030’s with a new class of submarines being built with British designs and American technology, one of the officials said.
U.S. President Joe Biden will host leaders of Australia and Britain in San Diego next week to chart a way forward for provision of the nuclear-powered submarines and other high-tech weaponry to Australia.
Two of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that after the annual port visits, the United States would forward deploy some submarines in Western Australia by around 2027.
In the early 2030’s, Australia would buy 3 Virginia class submarines and have the option to buy two more.
The Pentagon referred queries to the White House, which declined to confirm details about any upcoming announcement.
AUKUS will be Australia’s biggest-ever defense project and offers the prospect of jobs in all three countries.
Australia’s nuclear submarines will ensure peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific, southeast Asia and Indian Ocean, Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Thursday ahead of a landmark agreement between Washington, Canberra and London.
“Clearly, these submarines will have the capability to operate at war, but the true intent of this capability is to provide for the stability and for the peace of our region,” Marles told parliament.
“It is difficult to overstate the step that as a nation we are about to take … we have never operated a military capability at this level before,” Marles said. “I want to say, at this moment to our neighbours and to our friends around the world that as Australia invests in its defence … we do so as part of making our contribution to the peace and the stability of our region and of the world.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declined to confirm the report.
“I’ll be making further comments about specific proposals at the appropriate time but I can confirm that on Monday there will be a meeting of the AUKUS partners,” Albanese, on an official trip in India, told reporters in Ahmedabad.
PHOTO: The PCU Virginia (SSN 774) of the Virginia class nuclear powered submarines – U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat