In an effort to expand and overhaul its navy, Australia has signed a deal with the U.S. to purchase 5 Virginia-class nuclear submarines beginning in the next decade. Both U.S. and European officials have disclosed the deal as part of a landmark defense agreement between the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. in an effort to counter China.
The agreement is central to the newly formed AUKUS partnership. The sub deal is expected to be announced on Monday when President Joe Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego.
At the time of the partnership's formation 18 months ago, Biden said, "We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term," adding that "We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve."
The Virginia-class submarines cost $3 billion each and will be built in Virginia and Connecticut. Some sources, however, have said that the subs will be built in the UK and Australia using U.S. technology and assistance.
While the AUKUS partnership has many defense components, one of the most critical is the development of Australia's nuclear submarine capability.
While Western leaders have been careful never to call out China directly, it's clear that the AUKUS partnership is aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, Beijing has accused Australia of violating prior commitments to provide nuclear weapons or technology to its military.