• A British Astute class nuclear powered submarine. (UK MOD)
    A British Astute class nuclear powered submarine. (UK MOD)

Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have released a joint statement on their progress on cooperation under the AUKUS agreement, through which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

"Implementation of the AUKUS partnership has now begun," the White House said in a joint media release. "It has two related lines of effort. Submarines: AUKUS will provide Australia with a conventionally armed, nuclear powered submarine capability at the earliest possible date, while upholding the highest non‑proliferation standards. Advanced capabilities: AUKUS will develop and provide joint advanced military capabilities to promote security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region."

The review of progress revealed that multiple Joint Steering Group meetings have been held for each of the two AUKUS lines of effort, including in-person sessions in Canberra, London, and Washington, D.C. Seventeen trilateral working groups have also been established (nine relating to conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines, and eight relating to other advanced military capabilities) and each has met multiple times. 

On March 10, National Security Advisors from the three allies met virtually to review AUKUS progress and 'provide direction to the trilateral partnership going forward.'


On the first line of effort, the joint media release said that the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA) entered into force on February 8, meaning Australia now has access to US and UK naval nuclear propulsion information.

In February, combined teams from all three countries toured Australia 'to baseline its nuclear stewardship, infrastructure, workforce, and industrial capabilities and requirements' and reported their findings to the Joint Steering Group for review.

In addition, the Australian government is taking initial steps to secure land for the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Construction Yard, including land adjacent to the existing Osborne North Shipyard in South Australia. 

Advanced capabilities

On the second line of effort, the joint media release outlined progress in a number of areas of cooperation, including undersea robotics, electronic warfare, and hypersonic weapons.

Through the AUKUS Undersea Robotics Autonomous Systems (AURAS) project, the AUKUS nations are currently collaborating on autonomous underwater vehicles with initial trials and experimentation planned for 2023.

Meanwhile, the AUKUS Quantum Arrangement (AQuA) has an initial focus on quantum technologies for positioning, navigation, and timing, and early work in Artificial intelligence and autonomy is focused on accelerating adoption and improving the resilience of, autonomous and AI-enabled systems in contested environments. Cyber efforts are focused on strengthening cyber capabilities, including protecting critical communications and operations systems.

On hypersonics, the release only said: "The AUKUS partners will work together to accelerate development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities."

We are pleased with the progress in our trilateral program for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine capability. We are fully committed to establishing a robust approach to sharing naval propulsion technology with Australia that strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.

"We also committed today to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defense innovation," the three leaders said in a press release published through PM Scott Morrison's office. "These initiatives will add to our existing efforts to deepen cooperation on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.

"As our work progresses on these and other critical defense and security capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners."

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