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Pentagon Signs High-Tech Agreement with Australia and UK to Counter Chinese Influence

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — The U.S. is strengthening its high-tech military cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. The collaboration includes underwater drones and electronic warfare.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, along with defense chiefs from Australia and the United Kingdom, met at the U.S. military’s defense technology hub in Silicon Valley to establish a new agreement aimed at enhancing technology cooperation and information sharing. The joint statement emphasizes the need to address global security challenges, defend against evolving threats, and contribute to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

Austin, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, and British secretary of state for defense, Grant Shapps, met at the Defense Innovation Unit headquarters. At a news conference following the meeting, Austin highlighted the potential for rapidly advancing drone systems, stressing the strength of collaboration between the three nations.

This technology agreement builds upon the AUKUS partnership, which was announced in 2021 with plans to equip Australia with a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines. According to the agreement, Australia will purchase three Virginia-class submarines from the U.S. and construct five AUKUS-class submarines in cooperation with Britain. The submarines, powered by U.S. nuclear technology, will not carry nuclear weapons and will be built in Adelaide, Australia, with the first one expected to be completed around 2040.

Marles emphasized the significant progress in the submarine program, underscoring Australia’s need for improved maritime drones and precision strike capabilities. Shapps highlighted the necessity for innovation due to China’s interference with freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, emphasizing the critical importance of open navigation in the Pacific and the South China Sea.

Australian Navy officers are undergoing nuclear power training at U.S. military schools, and the U.S. has also committed to aiding Australia in manufacturing guided missiles and rockets for both countries within two years. The enhanced cooperation is driven by growing concerns about China’s defense spending and military presence in the region, with the U.S. increasing its troop presence and military activities in response.

The new agreement establishes plans for joint military exercises using undersea and surface maritime drones, as well as enhancing the ability of the three countries to share intelligence and data collected by sonobuoys for detecting submarines and other underwater objects. Additionally, the agreement calls for the expansion of artificial intelligence use, particularly on P-8A surveillance aircraft, to improve anti-submarine warfare, and the establishment of new radar sites to bolster the detection and tracking of objects in deep space.

High-tech demonstrations took place at the Defense Innovation Unit, showcasing various projects, including virtual training devices and swarming drones. These projects demonstrate the ongoing effort by the three nations to improve their military technology capabilities, addressing an area where China currently holds an advantage.

Austin observed a swarm of drones controlled by a single worker using a handheld module, emphasizing the advanced technology being developed. Inside the Defense Innovation Unit offices, Air Force Maj. Alex Horn demonstrated a new portable pilot training module that will allow instructors in the U.S. to remotely coach trainees overseas using virtual reality headsets.

Horn explained that these immersive training devices will be delivered to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s, providing a cost-effective and efficient solution for accelerated pilot training.

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