Australia, the UK and the US’s new defence pact AUKUS will see them boost trilateral collaboration and interoperability across cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies in a landmark deal.
Plans to furnish Australia’s Navy with nuclear-powered submarines drew the headlines (the country remains “committed to fulfilling all of its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state, including with the International Atomic Energy Agency”), but the AUKUS pact has deeper consequences for the tech sector.
The three’s plans for “deeper information and technology sharing” along with “deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains” will also prove potent for the UK’s technology community — and may yet open up opportunities for some of the smaller companies supporting sovereign UK technological capabilities that have chafed at export restrictions and lumpy procurement.
The UK’s Tom Tugendhat MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was frank about the benefits of the agreement. As he put it late Wednesday (September 15): “From artificial intelligence to advanced technology the US, UK and Australia will now be able to cost save by increasing platform sharing and innovation costs. Particularly for the smaller two, that’s game-changing. The reason for all this is clear – China.”
He added: “After years of bullying and trade hostility, and watching regional neighbours like the Philippines see encroachment into their waters Australia didn’t have a choice. And nor did the US or UK. We know that we need a regional power and to partner with and the nation that most closely shares our interests, and can be relied on completely, is Oz… The next steps are obvious – a permanent port for our own boats operating in the region; a joint fleet to ensure complete cooperation; the gradual inclusion of regional partners.
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“Britain’s key role has been as a network enabler, helping many work together. Now we can do that with advanced technology and future capabilities. [And] we can work to bring others with us.”
HMG said: “AUKUS is a concrete articulation of the UK’s ambition, made in the Integrated Review, to deepen defence, security and foreign policy ties with like-minded allies across the globe. The agreement reflects the unique level of trust and cooperation between our three countries, who already share extensive intelligence through the Five Eyes alliance.”
The first initiative under AUKUS will be a collaboration on future nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. The initial scoping phase for the new endeavour is expected to take 18 months. The design and build process will create hundreds of highly skilled scientific and engineering roles across the UK, and drive investment in some of our most high-tech sectors, HMG added.