Australia buys American nuclear submarines

NAfter the collapsed contract with France, Australia will now initially buy five nuclear-powered submarines from America. Australia’s transition to nuclear boats has so far had an incalculable impact on the security architecture and thus on economic ties in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing had repeatedly warned the Australians against this step.

Christopher Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia/Pacific based in Singapore.

The purchase and its terms are scheduled to be announced Monday at the US naval base in San Diego by US Prime Minister Joe Biden, his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Sunak comes to the United States because Great Britain is to take over the construction of further boats as part of the trilateral security alliance Aukus. They will then be equipped with American technology. With China’s encroachment in the Indo-Pacific region, all three countries plan to invest heavily in their defense capabilities. Trade routes across the Pacific, but also fishing grounds and mineral resources are to be secured.

Failed 50 billion deal with France

The first five boats belong to the Virginia Class. The later boats that the British and Australians want to build together will have a new design. From 2027, American nuclear boats are also scheduled to call at the Western Australian port of Perth again for the first time, where dozens were stationed during World War II to remain inaccessible to Japanese bombers.

The American boats will eventually replace the outdated Australian Collins class. Originally, the German manufacturer Thyssen-Krupp Marine Services had good chances of building conventional submarines in Adelaide and Perth. Then, at the last minute, the French ousted him, but under the previous Australian government, to the great annoyance of President Emmanuel Macron, they lost their contract worth an estimated more than 50 billion dollars.

With this, the Australians are making a double turn – they are tying themselves even more closely to their trade and security partners America and Great Britain. And for the first time they rely on nuclear energy. Although around a third of the world’s uranium reserves are said to lie in the soil of the fifth continent, Australia only operates the small reactor Lucas Heights near Sydney for medical purposes. Uranium has been officially banned as an energy source in Australia since 1998 – the country generates its electricity with its own coal, gas and water. Conservatives, however, have long been pushing for the use of nuclear energy. Buying nuclear submarines will play into their hands in the long run.

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