MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (AP) — From underwater drones to electronic warfare, the U.S. is expanding its high-tech military cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom as part of a broader effort to counter China’s rapidly growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin gathered with defense leaders from Australia and the United Kingdom at the U.S. military’s technology center in Silicon Valley. They came together to create a new agreement that will enhance technology collaboration and information exchange. The objective, as stated in a joint statement, is to improve the ability to address worldwide security issues, protect against fast-changing threats, and promote stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
Austin, the American secretary of defense, had a meeting with Richard Marles, the defense minister of Australia, and Grant Shapps, the British defense secretary, at the headquarters of the Defense Innovation Unit.
During a press briefing following the assembly, Austin remarked that the initiative will significantly hasten the advancement of drone technology and demonstrate our collective strength.
The latest pact between the United States and Australia marks a significant development in their growing military alliance, which was initially declared in 2021. The three countries have outlined their intentions to establish the AUKUS partnership, which will aid in the provision of eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. AUKUS stands for Australia, United Kingdom, and United States.
Australia has agreed to purchase three submarines of the Virginia-class from the United States and construct five submarines of the AUKUS-class in partnership with Britain. These submarines will be powered by U.S. nuclear technology and will not be equipped with nuclear weapons. They will be built in Adelaide, Australia, with the first one expected to be completed by 2040.
Marles stated that the submarine program has made significant strides. He also noted that, as a country surrounded by water, Australia requires enhanced maritime drones and precise strike capabilities.
Shapps stated that due to China’s interference in the Indo-Pacific region, there is a pressing need for increased innovation. He emphasized the importance of unrestricted navigation in both the Pacific and South China Sea.
Officials report that Australian Navy members are currently undergoing nuclear power education at military institutions in the United States.
In the beginning of this year, the United States declared its plan to assist Australia in producing guided missiles and rockets for both nations. This cooperation is expected to begin within two years and will involve collaborating on Australia’s production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems by 2025.
The increased collaboration among countries has been motivated by mounting worries regarding China’s increasing investment in defense and quick expansion of their military presence in the area. In the past year, Beijing entered into a security agreement with Solomon Islands and suggested the possibility of setting up a Chinese naval base there.
The United States has escalated its number of soldiers, military drills, and other operations in the area. Relations between the U.S. and China have become tense in recent times, primarily due to disputes over trade, American backing of independent Taiwan, Beijing’s expansion of its military on artificially-constructed islands, and multiple confrontations involving both countries’ aircraft and ships.
The latest accord also arranges a sequence of military drills that incorporate the deployment of undersea and surface drones in the maritime region. It also enhances the capacity of the three nations to exchange intelligence and information gathered by their sonobuoys. These buoys are utilized for detecting submarines and other items in the ocean.
The document also requests for strategies to increase the implementation of AI, specifically on P-8A surveillance planes, to efficiently analyze information from buoys and enhance anti-submarine warfare efforts. Additionally, it states that the three nations will set up additional radar sites to strengthen their capability in identifying and monitoring objects in outer space.
Cutting-edge displays were arranged throughout a spacious parking lot at DIU and within the main building. This gave Austin the opportunity to observe various projects that are currently in progress, such as a virtual training tool designed to assist Ukrainian pilots in mastering F-16 fighter jet operations and the development of swarming drones for military use. These endeavors are not directly related to the Australian agreement, but they demonstrate the continuous collaboration between the three countries to advance technology – an area where China is often at the forefront.
While exploring the displays, Austin witnessed a group of five drones taking flight from the ground and hovering above the spectators, all being controlled by one individual using a compact handheld device. The Skydio X2D drones, which are primarily used in warfare, are equipped with swarming capabilities and can be operated simultaneously using a single controller. According to the CEO of Skydio, Adam Bry, this technology is still being perfected.
Maj. Alex Horn, of the Air Force, showcased a portable pilot-training module at the DIU offices. This new technology will enable instructors in the United States to remotely guide trainees located overseas through the use of a virtual reality headset. Next month, four of these “Immersive Training Devices” will be sent to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona to train Ukrainian F-16 pilots.
According to Horn, the equipment is less expensive compared to other systems and will assist in expediting the training process for Ukrainian pilots. These pilots are accustomed to flying Soviet planes and require instruction on basic F-16 operations before commencing cockpit training.