Why in the news?
- Recently, the new enhanced trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) was launched.
- The United States(US), United Kingdom(UK), and Australia announced a new defence deal recently , under which America and Britain will help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific region.
- Although the leaders of these three countries did not say so, the deal is seen as a step towards curtailing China, which has made significant aggressive manoeuvres in the Pacific region, especially in and around the South China Sea, where it has expansive territorial claims.
Why is Australia getting nuclear submarine capability being seen in the context of possible military aggression involving China?
- This is primarily because a nuclear-powered submarine gives a navy the capability to reach far out into the ocean and launch attacks.
- Unlike conventional submarines, which are generally considered helpful for defensive purposes, the ability of a nuclear-powered submarine to go long distances, at a higher speed, without being detected gives a nation the ability to protect its interests far from its shores.
- In the context of the AUKUS agreement, nuclear-powered submarines will give the Royal Australian Navy the capability to go into the South China Sea, where China is increasingly getting aggressive, to protect its assets and conduct patrols — even though this has not been spelt out by the three countries.
- The US has in the past shared its nuclear propulsion technology only with the UK, in accordance with the nuclear power sharing arrangement that the two countries have had since 1958.
Advantage of Nuclear Submarines:
- The great advantage of a Nuclear Submarine is that its nuclear-powered propulsion gives the submarine a near infinite capacity to stay dived. Since it is propelled by a nuclear-powered engine rather than by batteries, it does not have to emerge on the surface at all, except to replenish supplies for the crew.
- Nuclear submarines are also able to move faster underwater than the conventional submarines. Added together, these advantages allow a navy to deploy these submarines quicker and at farther distances.
So why is France unhappy about Australia getting these submarines?
- The deal has complicated the relations between France and Australia, and also France and the US.
- Back in 2016 France and Australia had signed a contract to buy 12 Attack-class submarines from the French shipbuilder Naval Group worth nearly $ 90 billion. The defence and foreign ministers of Australia had “reconfirmed” the deal to France in mid of 2021. But now the deal is at stake.