CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said an alliance with Britain and the United States to deliver nuclear powered submarines to Australia would involve “jobs here”.

The United States and Britain each have closely guarded nuclear submarine programmes and the AUKUS defence alliance, announced in 2021, is yet to announce details of how the capability will be transferred to Australia, which does not have a domestic nuclear industry.

The AUKUS leaders are expected to announce in March which nuclear submarine design will be used, where it will be built and how Australia will cover the gap between the retirement of its conventional submarine fleet next decade and the delivery of new submarines.

AUKUS would announce “the optimal pathway by which Australia will operate our nuclear-powered submarines,” Albanese said in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday. “This will be the single biggest leap in our defence capability in our history.”

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Regional stability required Australia to build its sovereign defence capability, including advanced manufacturing, he added. 

“Its about our defence, but it is also about our industry policy, about our economy, about jobs here,” he said in response to questions.

John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University, said there was “enormous pressure” on Albanese for the submarine programme to deliver local jobs, but it was likely Australia would initially buy a British submarine.

Co-production or component production in Australia were expected in the long term, he said.

“A key part of the deal is this will deliver for intergenerational purposes a capability for the production of submarines and warships into the future,” he said.

AUKUS is seen as an effort by the Western allies to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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