Britain’s nuclear pact with Australia and America has received a mixed response from Royal Navy admirals. The deal involves a two-decade defence partnership to build next-generation attack submarines known as SSN-Aukus, which will double the size of the British submarine fleet and require Australian Royal Navy personnel to be trained and embedded in the Royal Navy and US Navy.
However, the Times reports that some Royal Navy officials, such as Rear Admiral Philip Mathias, believe that Britain lacks the capacity to support Australia’s submarine fleet while struggling to maintain its own.
On the other hand, Rear Admiral Alexander Burton thinks that the project is strategically significant and ambitious, and construction delays are due to historical issues.
Mr Burton said: “I see this as the culmination of the most strategically significant geopolitical engagement since the mutual defence pact of the late Fifties. It’s measured and ambitious in equal measure.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman has since come out and stressed the MoD is confident that the project will enhance the security of all three nations.
The MoD said the deal would benefit all three nations “for decades to come”, adding that the UK’s input “capitalises on 60 years’ experience of sustaining a nuclear enterprise”.
Meanwhile, a defence minister has said more countries could be welcomed into the next stage of Aukus, which will focus on cooperation in areas ranging from hypersonic weapons to quantum computing,
Alex Chalk’s comments were in response to shadow defence secretary John Healey, who asked him in the Commons to provide an update on the defence pact’s second line of effort.
The second phase of Aukus includes cooperation on advanced cyber, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation, and information sharing.
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Mr Healey said: “These are essential capabilities which can be delivered before the new Aukus subs enter service.
“The Integrated Review yesterday said very little on pillar two. So, can the minister overcome his reluctance today and provide an update on pillar two? What are its strategic objectives? What are its timelines?
“Which of the technologies has the highest priority? And as the broad coalition of countries imposing sanctions on Russia has shown some of our strongest and most reliable allies are in the Indo-Pacific, could any other countries beyond the three Aukus nations become involved in pillar two collaborations?”
Mr Chalk, who had just updated MPs on the submarine project, said: “There are a number of aspects to it (pillar two), from hypersonic, as he indicated, AI, but also underwater technologies as well. There will be further detail that will be explored in due course.
“What I think I can say to his point about other countries is unlike pillar one, which is not open for engagement beyond the three nations that we’ve already indicated, we will, of course, consider the interest that other nations have expressed in pillar two.”
He added: “What Aukus is designed to show, whether it’s pillar one or pillar two, is a shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and an international system that respects the rule of law, sovereignty, human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.
“That’s what our nation stands for, that’s what Aukus will deliver.”
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