Australia is expected to buy up to five submarines from the United States as part of a new defense agreement, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The Australian Navy is expected to purchase the Virginia-class nuclear submarines sometime in the 2030s, four sources from the U.S. military told Reuters. Australia will reportedly first purchase three submarines, with the option to buy two more at a later time. The officials also said that the United States would begin deploying some submarines in Western Australia around 2027.
The submarine purchases are part of a new deal called the AUKUS agreement. Described by The Guardian as "a new three-way strategic defense alliance to build a class of nuclear-propelled submarines ... [and] work together in the Indo-Pacific region," the AUKUS agreement was signed by the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia in 2021.
The details of "the first phase" of this "ambitious three-nation nuclear submarine deal" are expected to be revealed this coming Monday, when President Biden meets with the leaders of Australia and the U.K. in San Diego, Politico reports. The deal has been in the works for the past 18 months.
Australia is planning to outfit the submarines to meet their specifications, Reuters reports, and The Guardian adds that they will implement "British design success" but "will also make heavy use of U.S. technology." The submarines will likely not be ready until the late 2030s or early 2040s.
The AUKUS agreement has been controversial. While it is meant to strengthen Pacific defenses against China, France previously had an Australian submarine deal in place that had to be scrapped because of AUKUS.