Joe Biden launched a spectacular submarine program on Monday (March 13) in cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom. This major agreement concerns a vast program of nuclear-powered submarines, intended to stand up to China in the Pacific. “We are putting ourselves in the best position to face the challenges of today and tomorrow together,” the US president said, his favorite sunglasses on his nose, from a naval base in San Diego.
Surrounded by Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunak, Joe Biden assured that the United States could not have "better friends", praising this three-way alliance called AUKUS, which had enraged France when it was announced there. eighteen months. The American president had set the stage neatly: behind the three leaders, a docked American submarine and military ship, large flags, and rows of sailors in uniform.
Australia's prime minister said his country is making "the biggest investment in (its) history" through AUKUS, which will see it buy US nuclear-powered submarines before building a new generation of its own.
His British counterpart also praised the efforts made by the United Kingdom to boost its defense budget, and considered that with the United States and Australia, his country was committed to "the multilateral defense agreement the most important for generations".
The attack submarine program, which aims to reshape the Western military presence in the Pacific, will be divided into three phases, detailed the White House. And according to a "crucial" principle, hammered home by Joe Biden: "these submarines will be nuclear-powered, but will not carry nuclear weapons", to respect the principle of non-proliferation.
The objective is to deploy, from 2027 and on a principle of rotation, four American submarines and a British submarine on the Australian base of Perth (west). In a second step, and subject to the green light of the American Congress, Australia will buy three American nuclear-powered submarines of the Virginia class, with an option on two additional submersible vessels. The submarines must be delivered from 2030.
Finally – this is the third and most ambitious stage of the program – the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom will join forces for a new generation of attack submarines, called SSN AUKUS. These submarines will involve a gigantic industrial effort, in particular on the part of Australia, which must have a new shipyard in Adelaide, in the South.
The new ships, of British design and incorporating advanced American technologies, will be built and deployed by the United Kingdom and Australia. They are to be delivered from the late 2030s and early 2040s. Nuclear-powered submarines are difficult to detect, can travel great distances for long periods of time, and can carry sophisticated cruise missiles.
The conclusion of the AUKUS alliance, with the corollary of Canberra's cancellation of the contract for the acquisition of 12 French submarines, had given rise in 2021 to a diplomatic crisis with France, which had cried "treason".
None of the three leaders gathered in San Diego on Monday made explicit mention of China, but Joe Biden made an implicit reference to it. He indeed asserted that the AUKUS alliance should ensure that "the Indo-Pacific area remains free and open". This formula, in American diplomatic jargon, designates the desire to counter Chinese influence in the region.