How AUKUS will backfire on Australia

MOSCOW, 26 Sep 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

On September 15, 2021, the United States, Britain and Australia created the expanded trilateral security Partnership AUKUS, which will focus on the Indo-Pacific region. The abbreviation AUKUS stands for: A – Australia, UK – United Kingdom, US – USA.

An international scandal was widely publicised related to the first initiative of this military bloc – the appearance of a program for the construction of at least eight multi-purpose nuclear submarines for the Australian Navy with the help of the United States and Britain and the refusal to cooperate with France on a program for the construction of twelve non-nuclear submarines. It is most likely that the American project of the Virginia-class submarine will be taken as a basis.

In order not to violate the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Australian multi-purpose nuclear submarines will be armed with cruise missiles with a conventional warhead. The Australian government intends to build nuclear submarines in South Australia, making the most of Australian workers.

It should be noted that the American Virginia Block V class submarine with four Virginia Payload Modules (VPM) can carry 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles in vertical launchers.

By the way, the 2018 US Nuclear Policy Review sets the task of the US Navy to switch to the use of sea-based cruise missiles (SLCM) in nuclear equipment. Thus, technically, Australia, with the help of the United States, will be able to equip its submarines with nuclear weapons during the threatened period. It is difficult to expect that on the eve of a large-scale war, anyone will look particularly at the NPT. In addition, modern cruise missiles with their range and accuracy are capable of solving strategic tasks in non-nuclear equipment.

However, the program for the construction of nuclear submarines is only one of the points of the program for the re-equipment of the Australian Defence Force. We must pay tribute to the fact that the Australian government outlined its plans in sufficient detail in a press statement dated September 16, 2021. Here is the full quote:

“The Government will also acquire additional long-range strike capabilities for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Throughout the decade, Australia will rapidly acquire long-range strike capabilities to enhance the ADFs ability to deliver strike effects across our air, land and maritime domains. These include:

– Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, to be fielded on our Hobart class destroyers, enabling our maritime assets to strike land targets at greater distances, with better precision.

– Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (Extended Range) will enable our F-A-18F Super Hornets and in future, our F-35A Lightning II, to hit targets at a range of 900km.

– Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (Extended Range) (LRASM) for the F/A-18F Super Hornet.

– Continuing collaboration with the United States to develop hypersonic missiles for our air capabilities.

– Precision strike guided missiles for our land forces, which are capable of destroying, neutralising and suppressing diverse targets from over 400km.

– Accelerating $1 billion for a sovereign guided weapons manufacturing enterprise – which will enable us to create our own weapons on Australian soil.

These capabilities, coupled with the planned Life-of-Type Extension of Australias Collins class submarine fleet, will enhance Australias ability to deter and respond to potential security challenges”.

Thus, special emphasis is placed on increasing the striking power of the Australian Defence Force, primarily through equipping them with guided missile weapons. At the same time, we are talking not only about the purchase of American weapons samples, but also about creating one’s own capacities for the production of guided weapons.

Let’s focus on cooperation between Australia and the United States in the field of hypersonic weapons. According to the latest update of the regular report of the US Congressional Research Service “Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress” dated August 25, 2021, since 2007, the United States has been cooperating with Australia under the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experiment (HIFiRE) program for the development of hypersonic technologies. The last test was conducted on it in 2017: the dynamics of the flight of a hypersonic gliding combat unit at a speed of Mach 8 was studied.

At the moment, a joint American-Australian hypersonic program Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) is being developed, which is aimed at further development of hypersonic technologies based on air-jet engines. Test flights under this program are planned for the mid-2020s.

By the way, Australia has the world’s largest Woomera testing ground for weapons. It also operates seven hypersonic wind tunnels that allow creating an air flow with a flow speed of up to Mach 30.

Taking into account the review of the program of qualitative rearmament of the Australian Defence Force, it can be concluded that this country has a serious role to play within the new military unit AUKUS. Thus, Australia becomes an active member of the anti-Chinese front. It will be assigned the task of blocking the PRC from the south (more about this here).

Any position has its own price. Australia has an export-oriented economy. At the same time, 40% of these exports are accounted for by China. Australia’s anti-Chinese rhetoric on the origin of the coronavirus and the expanded presence of the Chinese navy in the South China Sea has already cost this country billions of dollars.

China has stopped buying Australian wine (minus $800 million a year), Australian barley (minus $1.5 billion a year). Further, Beijing imposed bans and restrictions on imports from Australia of coal, cotton, seafood, copper and wood. China has limited Australia’s ability to earn money from Chinese students and Chinese tourists.

It turns out that active participation in the vanguard of the anti-Chinese front is already not cheap for Canberra: military spending within the AUKUS military bloc is sharply increasing and traditional export revenues are decreasing. There will be more in the future.

However, in the published documents on AUKUS, nothing is said about Australia’s economic compensation from the allies in the face of the United States and Britain. Not only will Canberra be used in the interests of Washington and London, but it will also pay for its use itself. This is a tribute to Australia’s lack of sufficient political subjectivity.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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