Pact with US, Britain, will see Australia scrap French sub deal

Australia, the United States and Britain are expected to jointly announce a new trilateral security partnership that will see Australia scrap a multi-billion dollar program to build French-designed submarines and build a nuclear-powered fleet with US and British technology instead, Australian media reported.

Australia’s ABC News said it understood Australia would use the American and British technology to replace its existing Collins class submarines with a type more suitable to the deteriorating strategic environment.

It said the new three-nation security pact would be known as AUUKUS and will likely to be seen by China as a bid to counter its regional influence, especially in the contested South China Sea.

In the United States, Politico reported that US President Joe Biden plans to announce a plan on Wednesday to share advanced technologies in a working group with Britain and Australia as part of moves to counter China.

Biden is due to give a 7am AEST address on national security, but the White House would not provide details.

Politico, citing a White House official and a congressional staffer, said the AUUKUS working group would enable the three countries to share information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber [security], underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities.

It quoted one of the sources as saying that as part of the pact, the US and Britain would share their knowledge of how to maintain nuclear-defence infrastructure.

Australia in 2016 selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.

It has been one of the world’s most lucrative defence deals, but has been beset by issues and delays due to Canberra’s requirement that the majority of the manufacturing and components be sourced locally.

French officials were not immediately available for comment.