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AUKUS Defence Partnership

Volume 742: debated on Monday 4 December 2023

Just over two years ago, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia launched the ground-breaking new strategic partnership—known as AUKUS. As we have seen over the last two years or so, the world has become more dangerous. That is why Defence partnerships like AUKUS only become more important in ensuring that the UK and our allies maintain a strategic advantage.

For more than a century, our nations have stood shoulder to shoulder, along with other allies and partners, to help sustain peace, stability, and prosperity around the world.

On Friday, I was delighted to meet the US Secretary for Defence, Lloyd Austin, and the Australian Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Maries at the Defence Innovation Unit in California for the annual AUKUS Defence Ministers’ Meeting.

For Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines (Pillar I), we are collaborating to deliver this capability at the earliest possible date while upholding the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard.

For Advanced Capabilities (Pillar II), we are significantly deepening co-operation on a range of security and defence capabilities, making sure that each nation has the capabilities needed to defend against rapidly evolving threats.

Through these efforts, AUKUS contributes to integrated deterrence by pursuing layered and asymmetric capabilities that promote deterrence and stability.

We reflected on the exceptional progress made as part of delivering on the optimal pathway to develop a conventionally armed, nuclear powered, submarine capability to the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, as announced by the AUKUS leaders in March this year. This includes increased training opportunities for Australian sailors in the UK and US, and the introduction of enabling legislation to the US Congress and Australian Parliament. We reaffirmed our shared commitment to upholding the highest standard for nuclear non-proliferation. Our industry is supporting Australia in this endeavour. Both BAE Systems in Barrow and Rolls Royce in Derby are playing a key role in the delivery of this world-class capability.

We also reflected on how the strategic alignment of our national defence strategies, anchored by our shared values, is facilitating unprecedented collaboration in advanced technologies. Through Pillar II, we are accelerating and deepening the development and delivery of advanced military capabilities, based on the most important challenges we face. This progress will improve our shared ability to tackle emerging threats.

We are significantly scaling up our co-operation on maritime capabilities and have committed to test these through a landmark maritime autonomy experimentation and exercise series. This will help us test our interoperability and increase the sophistication and scale of autonomous systems in the maritime domain. There will be significant opportunities for UK industry to engage.

We are advancing our trilateral anti-submarine warfare activities and undersea vehicle launch and recovery. These capabilities help to increase the range and capability of our undersea forces and will also support SSN-AUKUS. This follows our successful trials last month, where HMS Tamar played a key role in combined exercises off the east coast of Australia.

We are strengthening cyber capabilities across the three AUKUS partners, ensuring that we are working hand in hand with our industry partners across all our supply chains and protecting this endeavour for the future.

We are developing quantum technologies to increase resilience for our trilateral forces in Global Positioning System-degraded environments and enhance stealth in the undersea domain, including on future SSN-AUKUS submarines.

Critical to all of our capability development is our ability to facilitate faster and deeper defence trade between our nations. These efforts will increase private-sector co-operation across our nations, which is crucial to our ambition in emerging technologies. The Advanced Capabilities Industry Forum will provide a mechanism for industry-industry and Government-industry consultation on how to transfer the necessary technology, data, and know-how needed to deliver capability quickly. We have also previewed our first AUKUS Innovation Challenge.

In addition, we have confirmed our trilateral co-operation on the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) programme. This will provide 24/7, all-weather capabilities that will increase AUKUS nations’ ability to characterise objects deep in space up to 22,000 miles—36,000 kilometres —away from earth, supporting His Majesty’s Government’s commitments to be a meaningful actor in space under the National Space Strategy (2021). Cawdor Barracks in South-West Wales has been identified as the UK’s preferred host site, which will progress subject to planning permission.

Together, these initiatives provide us with a solid foundation to enhance our collective security and deterrence to keep all three nations’ safe in a world that is becoming more dangerous by the day.

For additional detail, I refer members to the AUKUS Defence Ministers’ communique