Looks like Australia is getting SSNs.
The Biden administration took a major step on Wednesday in challenging China’s broad territorial claims in the Pacific, announcing that the United States and Britain would help Australia to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western presence in the region.
If the plan, announced on Wednesday by President Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, comes to fruition, Australia may be conducting routine patrols that could sail through areas of the South China Sea that Beijing now claims as its own exclusive zone, and range as far north as Taiwan. The announcement is a major step for Australia, which until recent years has been hesitant to push back directly at core Chinese interests.
Looking forward to more details on the construction of the boats, and eventually their manning. To be clear (for the novices out there) SSNs are nuclear powered attack submarines; nuclear power makes submarines go faster and gives them functionally unlimited range. The use of nuclear propulsion is submarines has thus far tended to go hand-in-hand with the development of nuclear weapons, but assuming a patron exists (US and UK in this case) there is no necessary relationship between the two. The practical impact is that Australian submarines will be larger, more powerful, and have larger operational circles than previously, which is important given that the Pacific Ocean is large. There’s a defense industry angle here; the British and Americans are cutting out the French, who had a deal with Australia to build conventional submarines that has, over the past 18 months, gone bad. But as noted above there are good, practical reasons why Australia would want SSNs, and why Washington would want Australia to have them.