AUKUS – Pillar II Plans Announced

Foreign Affairs

Washington: The top defence officials from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia announced a raft of new initiatives associated with the AUKUS security pact’s second pillar, focused on trilateral maritime exercises and opportunities to engage industry from all three countries.

“Again and again AUKUS proves that we are stronger together,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a joint press conference, flanked by United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps and Australia’s Minister for Defence Richard Marles. “And every day we move closer to our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Just before the defence leaders addressed the public, the State Department said it had approved a potential  foreign military sales case to Australia for various articles and services related to AUKUS Pillar I, which is focused on the provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. The potential sale is valued at an estimated $2 billion.

“The sale will advance the AUKUS trilateral agreement by providing the equipment to train Royal Australian Navy crews in areas such as submarine navigation, communications, ship control, and other capabilities,” according to the announcement. “Additionally, it will also provide the means to train select Australian civilians and contractors at United States naval shipyards. This trained workforce will grow Australia’s submarine capability, which is expected to ultimately incorporate technologies from all three AUKUS partner nations.”

Marles  said  the “most significant maintenance” of an American nuclear-powered submarine will occur in Australia in the third quarter of next year, which “will crystallise the development that needs to be occurring in terms of both infrastructure and skills within our workforce and our submariner base.”

But, he said, “In terms of today’s meeting, it is actually Pillar II, which has taken centre stage. … I think today’s meeting will be regarded as a critical moment in the history of Pillar II of AUKUS and that is the sharing and development of advanced technologies between our three countries.”

The second pillar of AUKUS revolves around jointly developing and employing advanced technologies such AI and autonomy, advanced cyber and electronic warfare. Among the new initiatives announced was a maritime autonomous experiment and exercise series.