“When the wicked combine, the good must combine; otherwise they will fall, one by one, a ruthless sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
– Edmund Burke, “Reflections on the Cause of Current Discontents”, 1770
The only surprising thing about AUKUS is that it took so long to be formalized. For more than a century, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have worked together to protect common values and improve the safety and well-being of people around the world. We have been natural allies and together we have resisted totalitarian coercion, oppression and force.
We must never forget that freedom and respect for the rights of the individual are not universally accepted as a global good. The intolerance and oppression of totalitarian power was not eliminated after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, or the disintegration of the so-called Islamic State caliphate.
The 2020 Defense Strategic Update makes it clear that Australia’s strategic environment is changing as military and gray area threats evolve at an unprecedented rate. Democratic nations are witnessing the largest strategic realignment since World War II and increasing their collaboration in response.
AUKUS has been described as ‘making an era’ and ‘Australia’s greatest strategic milestone in generations’. Considering the headlines and comments, however, many will be surprised that AUKUS isn’t primarily about subs.
Certainly, eight nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy will be a powerful and effective deterrent that will help maintain security within established global standards that have benefited all Indo-Pacific nations throughout. in recent decades. But as one commentator rightly pointed out, “the big picture is lost in a sea of naval analysis.”
The real value of this partnership lies in the joint development of capabilities and the further integration of defense science and technology, industrial bases and, most importantly, supply chains.
This new trilateral security partnership will aim to make each partner more capable and resilient. AUKUS complements, rather than competes with, regional partnerships such as the Quad and intelligence-sharing agreements such as the Five Eyes.
Critics of the government have raised questions about what UKUS will mean for Australia’s ability to make sovereign decisions. They point to nuclear submarines to suggest that such technological dependence on the United States will reduce Australia’s sovereign ability to act in its national interest.
Perhaps these critics are ignoring the facts, but it is more likely that they have embraced historic amnesia for the sake of short-term political gain and choose to ignore the record of partnership between Australia, the United States. United and the United Kingdom. One example is the air combat capability.
During World War II, Australia’s only locally designed and manufactured fighter, the Boomerang, was powered by an American-designed Pratt & Whitney engine. Royal Australian Air Force pilots had a better chance of survival and victory in the Pacific theater when flying the British Spitfire or the American P-40 Kittyhawk. The P-51 Mustang, which provided Australia’s air combat capability until the Korean War, was an American model powered by the British Rolls Royce Merlin engine. In today’s RAAF, the F-35 can hardly be considered Australian design or control technology, nor can the F / A-18F Super Hornet, P-8A Poseidon, and many others. The Loyal Wingman remotely piloted aircraft is as close as it gets to Australian-owned air combat technology, but even then Boeing, an American company, is the manufacturer.
Whether at the tactical, technical or strategic level, history shows that the government can and does make sovereign decisions in Australia’s national interest despite heavy technological dependence on the United States and the United States. UK.
During Operation Slipper and related deployments to the Middle East, Australia made its own decisions on rules of engagement, although Australian forces operated alongside the United States and other partners. Australia took the unilateral decision to upgrade the capability of its US-made CH-47D helicopters before sending them to Afghanistan. After purchasing the F / A-18 Hornet from the US Navy, we chose to integrate the British ASRAAM in preference to the standard US AIM-9 short-range air-to-air missile.
The history between the three parties in AUKUS more broadly validates this observation of independent action. In 1958, Britain acquired nuclear technology for its submarines from the Americans. Soon after, the United States asked Britain to commit troops to the Vietnam War. However, British Prime Minister Wilson refused, offering instead principled support for the war, but not military engagement. During this period Australia operated French Mirage III fighters and British Oberon-class submarines but, unlike the UK, decided that the national interest was served by supporting South Vietnam. The United Kingdom and Australia have both remained committed and reliable allies of the United States, while retaining sovereignty over the deployment and use of military capabilities.
To understand why AUKUS is so important, just consider the lessons of Covid-19 around Supply Chain Resilience and Threat Assessment in Strategic Defense Update, which calls for the Australia to be able to shape our region, deter aggression and respond with military force if necessary.
The ability to deter aggression in our region will be enhanced by the agreement to provide the Australian Defense Force with a range of precision-guided missiles, particularly long-range strike weapons that can put an adversary in danger. Maintaining regional security, however, requires the ability not only to deploy military force when needed, but also to support operations. This requires resilient supply chains, which will be strengthened by the decision to accelerate the manufacture of precision guided missiles in Australia.
Coming back to aerial combat for example, AMRAAM is the main air-to-air missile currently certified for use on aircraft operated by Australia, the United States and other partners such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore. The United States has also committed to supply AMRAAM to partners in Europe and the Middle East. The ability to replenish war stocks will therefore be limited in the event of a major or concurrent conflict, and an alternate manufacturing base will be essential to ensure resilient supply chains in any conflict in the short term. AUKUS is expected to underpin a deal for Australia to develop local capacity in partnership with manufacturer AMRAAM Raytheon to manufacture and supply the missiles for our own use and that of our allies.
AUKUS is not capturing Australia with a foreign agenda. Instead, it opens the door to enhanced collaboration that will build collective capacity and resilience, enhancing Australia’s ability to partner with like-minded nations to deter threats and contribute to stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.