3 Mar 2023

AUKUS deal: Australia assures US nuclear submarine technology safe

12:46 pm on 3 March 2023

Australia has assured Washington that US technology will be safe under a plan to supply it with nuclear-powered submarines in a tripartite deal also including Britain, Canberra's ambassador to the US says.

The Australian Collins-class submarines will be replaced by nuclear-powered subs with technology provided by the US under AUKUS

Collins-class submarines HMA Ships Collins, Farncomb, Dechaineux and Sheean in formation while transiting through Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. Photo: Australian Defence Force/ Lieutenant Chris Prescott

Speaking to a US think tank, Arthur Sinodinos also says when details of the AUKUS submarine deal are announced in mid-March, people will see there has been a "genuine trilateral solution."

Under the AUKUS deal announced in 2021 the US and Britain agreed to provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines as part of joint efforts to counter the supposed threat posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region.

However, both have closely guarded nuclear submarine programs and the three allies have yet to say exactly how the capability will be transferred to Australia, which does not have a domestic nuclear propulsion industry.

Asked about strict controls on exports of technology under US International Traffic in Arms Regulations that have hampered past US defence cooperation deals and whether there would be exemptions for Australia, Sinodinos said the Biden administration had done a lot of work aimed at "a seamless transfer of technology".

"That work is underway; it's not finished, but compared with say six months ago, the work is getting done," he told Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

"We've assured Americans and shown them the sort of protection of information measures that we take to make sure they understand that their technology is safe in terms of leakage to third parties and all the rest of it. So we're getting there," he said.

Sinodinos said he would "not prejudge the outcome," but added: "The very fact that the Americans are prepared to share their crown jewels with us implies that there will have to be progress on the seamless transfer of technology. None of us want this to be bogged down. And I think that state of mind has now permeated through various levels of the (US) administration."

Leaders from Australia and Britain are expected to travel to Washington this month to announce the way forward on AUKUS after an 18-month consultation period.

On Wednesday, British and Australian defence officials said more work was needed to break down bureaucratic barriers to technology sharing in the second pillar of the AUKUS agreement dealing with advanced technology programs such as artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons.


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