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The 'big problem' facing Australia's landmark $100 billion submarine deal

An impending AUKUS announcement on Australia's nuclear-powered submarines has some experts concerned about our military future.

Details of the impending AUKUS security announcement have reportedly been leaked, with Australia set to acquire up to five US-designed nuclear-powered submarines before receiving a number of UK-designed vessels.

The security deal with the US and UK was announced in 2021, and was widely seen as a direct countermeasure to China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

And while British PM Rishi Sunak is reportedly overjoyed with the speculated deal shared by insiders to several media outlets, there are concerns from within Australia over the US fleet set to be sent Down Under.

Australian National University's John Blaxland says the speculation "flies in the face" of his understanding of Australia's capability.

A US Virginia-class fast-attack submarine, like the ones Australia is set to acquire. Source: AP
A US Virginia-class fast-attack submarine, like the ones Australia is set to acquire. Source: AP

"I question what is being said because there has been a long recognition that American submarines are very difficult for us to operate because they're a quantum leap in size and crew requirements," he told AAP.

Having a high proportion of the crew being American would force Australia to rely on the US for a long period of time, he added. "We will be dependent on American crewing for a long, long time," Prof Blaxland said. "Is that what we want?"

He also said due to the strain on the US production line, he feared Australia would not have capability "for years".

Insiders host David Speers echoed those concerns on Friday morning, telling ABC News Breakfast Australia faced a "big problem".

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Source: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will make an announcement on the deal on Monday. Source: AAP

"We've never done this before. You can't do a crash course, a last-minute cram session on how to run a nuclear submarine. This takes years and years of experience," he said.

The AUKUS deal will set Australia back $100 billion in its biggest ever defence spend. It could see US nuclear-powered submarines in Australian waters as early as 2027 in a three-stage plan. The second stage would see the US purchased subs arrive in the 2030s and the UK subs in the 2040s. It is due to be announced on Monday as Sunak, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US President Joe Biden meet in San Diego.

China blasts AUKUS deal once again

China has long opposed the security pact, and on Thursday again called out the agreement, urging the three countries to rethink the deal.

"We urge the US, the UK and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, honour international obligations in good faith and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles argued the deal would help instil peace and stability in the region.

With AAP

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