The AUKUS defense alliance agrees to cooperate on hypersonic weapons and electronic warfare capabilities.
Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – a grouping known as AUKUS – have agreed to cooperate on hypersonic weapons and electronic warfare capabilities, the leaders of the three countries have said.
The development follows the creation of the AUKUS defense alliance between the three nations in September last year, which prompted Australia to cancel a contract for a conventional French submarine in favor of a nuclear submarine program supported by the US and UK, damaging relations with French President Emanuel Macron.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the AUKUS leaders – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian PM Scott Morrison – said they were pleased with the progress of the program for conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, and the allies would co-operate in other areas too.
“We … committed today to begin 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,” they said.
“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.”
The US and Australia already have a hypersonic weapon program called SCIFIRE, and UK officials said that though Britain would not join that program at this point, the three countries would work together on research and development in the area to increase their options.
Biden’s administration is investing in the research and development of hypersonic missiles, which travel at five times the speed of sound, as Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine has intensified concerns about European security.
“In light of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, we reiterated our unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion,” the leaders said, adding they also reaffirmed their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
When asked about the agreement, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun warned against measures that could fuel a crisis like the Ukraine conflict in other parts of the world.
“Anyone who does not want to see the Ukrainian crisis should refrain from doing things which may lead the other parts of the world into a crisis like this,” Zhang told reporters.
“As the Chinese saying goes: If you do not like it, do not impose it against the others.”
While ballistic missiles fly high into space in an arc to reach their target, a hypersonic weapon flies on a trajectory low in the atmosphere, potentially reaching a target more quickly.
Crucially, a hypersonic missile is maneuverable – like the much slower, often subsonic cruise missile – making it much harder to track and defend against.
Russia is seen as the most advanced nation in this field, while China is also aggressively developing the technology, according to the US Congressional Research Service (CRS).
France, Germany, Australia, India and Japan have been working on hypersonics, and Iran, Israel and South Korea have conducted basic research on the technology, the CRS has previously said.
The US, UK and Australia launched their landmark security pact last September. The pact was proclaimed at the time as allowing the three allies to share advanced technologies.