Defense officials put technology at center of AUKUS summit

WASHINGTON — Most of the talk to date about the American, Australian and British submarine pact known as AUKUS

Defense officials put technology at center of AUKUS summit

WASHINGTON — Most of the talk to date about the American, Australian and British submarine pact known as AUKUS has focused on what’s known as Pillar I, the sprint to supply Australia with its own nuclear-powered submarine.

The partnership’s second pillar, centered on advanced technology such as hypersonic missiles and quantum computing, seemed further away.

That is now changing, according to the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday held an encore AUKUS summit with his counterparts from Australia and the United Kingdom with an agenda squarely focused on Pillar II.

During the meeting at the Defense Innovation Unit — the Pentagon’s innovation arm — the three countries’ message was, in part, that the second pillar is made of more than aspirations.

In doing so, they announced a host of efforts seeking to bolster both high-tech capabilities and the industry that might provide it.

First, the AUKUS countries will hold a series of joint maritime drone exercises, meant to deliver such platforms faster, better sync each other’s systems and allow the companies participating in them to showcase their offerings.

Speaking with reporters before Friday’s meeting, a senior defense official wouldn’t specify the number and kind of systems that will feature — but mentioned U.S. Central Command’s Task Force 59, which experiments with naval drones.

Second, the AUKUS countries will begin a “prize challenge” led by the Defense Innovation Unit in which American, Australian and British companies can compete for a reward — something like “Shark Tank” for weapons.

The inaugural topic will be electronic warfare, which the official said was chosen because it aligns well with the three countries’ national defense strategies. The official wouldn’t specify the dollar amount at play or how often the challenges may occur.

Additionally, the three countries will host an AUKUS industry forum in the first half of next year focused on Pillar II.

Lastly, Austin and his counterparts discussed progress on specific capabilities, including the testing and deployment of shared AI.

As an example, the senior defense official cited buoys operated by AUKUS countries in the Indo-Pacific, which scan below the sea for enemy systems. These sensors relay data to aircraft flying above, such as P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. America, Australia and the U.K. have been testing and deploying AI algorithms that will allow each country to process data sent from each other’s buoys, allowing them to better hunt enemy submarines.

The official wouldn’t give an exact timeframe for the platform to become operational, only saying it was a “short-term” capability.

Despite the announcements AUKUS Pillar II faces challenges, the official acknowledged.

Most troublesome, perhaps, is America’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which tightly controls defense exports.

Congress is considering multiple proposals to reform ITAR, which could also spring free a “substantial contribution” the official said Australia has offered to boost America’s slogging submarine industrial base. The investment is reportedly $3 billion.

The official wouldn’t say which proposal being debated in Congress the Pentagon prefers and said the trilateral drone exercises could proceed without legislative reform. But other Pillar II goals, the official said, are at risk.

“The deeper we go in capability collaboration and the broader we go … the more that the legislative proposal becomes essential,” the official said.

Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.

Source link

About Author