future Australian submarines will be of British design

The crucial role played by the United Kingdom in the Aukus, the historic tripartite defense alliance with the United States and Australia, confirms the country’s strategic and geopolitical choices, in particular this “turn” towards Indo- Pacific defended by London since 2021. In addition, the Aukus secures orders for decades to come at the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard, in the county of Cumbria (north-west of England), where are already manufactured Astute nuclear-powered submarines and Dreadnought ballistic missile launchers (providing Britain’s nuclear deterrent).

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It is indeed a British design that was chosen to manufacture the future Australian fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. The SSN-Aukus will be developed from an initial “SSN(R)” plan that the British have been working on for three years to replace the Astute generation. The SSN-Aukus will be used by both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, and will be partly manufactured in the Barrow-in-Furness shipyards by manufacturers BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce (specifically responsible for nuclear reactors ). The workforce of the shipyard should increase from 10,000 to 17,000 employees, Ben Wallace, the Minister of Defense announced in January.

London also secures its place at the table of a historic alliance aimed at countering and deterring Chinese expansionism in the Pacific. The Sunak government is toughening its tone vis-à-vis Beijing without siding with the hawks and considering the Asian giant as a ” threat ” for the security of the United Kingdom (this was, however, the wish of her predecessor Liz Truss, and that of quite a few of her Conservative MPs). For the British Prime Minister, China poses “a historic challenge to the world order” and the UK must “keep alert and take steps to ensure your safety”. However, the country wants to continue working with China to fight against global warming and considers that cutting economic ties with the Asian giant would put its economic interests in danger.

Doubts about the country’s capacities

The choice of the Indo-Pacific turning point was made public in early 2021 in the The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the UK’s ten-year strategic vision for defence. At the time, many European experts had harshly judged this ambition, equating it in part with the ideological posture of a Brexit government wanting to turn its back on Europe. With this first stage of the Aukus, the British commitment in this region of the globe is taking shape, but doubts remain about the ability of the country, which is now only a second-tier power, to invest so far from its shores when its army is already under severe strain and faces, along with Russia, a more immediate and much closer threat.

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