/ 17 September 2021

Getting fight-fit for the future

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THE SQUIZ
It was a sea of red, white and blue as PM Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and UK PM Boris Johnson gathered virtually to announce one of the biggest developments in defence and strategic direction in decades. In an acknowledgement that our Indo-Pacific region is where it’s at, Australia, the UK, and the US have made a new security pact – AUKUS. Under that pact, the US and UK have agreed to share their nuclear-powered submarine technology for the first time to enable Australia to build a fleet of at least 8 of the highly incredibly exceedingly complex watercrafts.

SO WHY IS THIS A BIG DEAL?
Three things to note:

• Only 6 countries currently have nuclear-powered submarines. And Australia has no current capacity to build a nuclear-powered anything right now. The US and UK will give us the know-how to build submarines that don’t need to be refuelled – ever. Super handy if you think you’re going to be patrolling the oceans a lot…

• It’s a break up of sorts with France with the $90 billion conventional sub-building program scuttled. And look, French President Emmanuel Macron and Co aren’t happy about it, but billions will be paid in compensation and for the work that’s already been done.

• But it’s about a lot more than a sub… What the announcement does is effectively call out China as the sort of threat to world peace that warrants the US and UK giving Oz much sharper weapons and inviting us deep into their secret armoury.

WHAT’S NEXT?
There’s an 18-month scoping project to work out how the subs will be built, and the expectation is the first subs will be operational sometime between 2036-38. In the meantime, there’ll be China’s response to deal with. Experts say if you thought China’s reaction to Oz calling for an investigation into the origins of COVID was something, wait until you see their response to this… And domestic politics could get interesting with Labor leader Anthony Albanese a long time anti-nuke advocate. He’s been briefed and has criticised the waste of taxpayers money over the ditched French project. On Oz having this new tech, he says he wants some more info.

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