Morrison Touts Tomahawk Missile Procurement, Says Nuclear Subs Will Be 'in the Water' in 10 Years
As leaders from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States unveiled their new trilateral security partnership for advanced defense-tech sharing on Wednesday, it was also revealed that the first initiative of the endeavor would be the delivery of Australia's first nuclear-powered submarine fleet.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison returned to his Canberra podium Thursday afternoon to divulge that the country should expect more than just a costly nuclear submarine fleet within the next several years.
"[W]e will be enhancing our long-range strike capability including hawk and tomahawk cruise missiles and extended missile range for our capabilities," Morrison said, highlighting the goal of a "stable and secure region."
The acquisition of Australia's new capabilities will come as part of the country's 2024 structure plan, and the missiles will be fitted on Australia's Collins-class submarine fleet.
As for the nuclear submarine fleet, Morrison projected that the country should have a portion of the submarines "in the water" before 2030.
"When it comes to the delivery of this program, I indicated that we anticipate being able to commence build this year and the first of those submarines would be in the water, we believe, before the end of next decade and all partners will be working to ensure that that is achieved at a date as soon as is possible to achieve," he said.
Morrison rejected claims that Australia "wasted" some $2.4 billion that was already funneled to France's Naval Group as part of a $90 billion submarine contract -- a deal that was rendered defunct following Wednesday's announcement.
"We've invested $2.4 billion in the attack class program and I say all of that investment, I believe, has further built our capability," he proclaimed, "and that is consistent with the decision that was taken back in 2016 for all the right reasons to protect Australia's national security interests and has served that purpose."
The French defense contractor notably expressed "deep disappointment" in response to the AUKUS nuclear submarine initiative on Wednesday.
The Australian prime minister went on to issue a public apology to Naval Group, the French government and French President Emmanuel Macron.
"There is few if any other country around the world that understands the importance of the Pacific and has been as committed to the Pacific as France," he said.
"We share a deep passion for our Pacific family and a deep commitment to them, and I look forward and I hope to see us continue once we move past what is obviously a very difficult and disappointing decision for France."
China also took issue with the AUKUS announcement, which was viewed as another example of the participating nations' "Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice," according to a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
"There's an open invitation for President Xi to discuss other matters," Morrison said to a reporter asking about potential economic trade sanctions from China. "That has always been there. Australia is open to discuss issues important to the Indo-Pacific."
Morrison also stressed to the global community that Australia is not looking to become a nuclear power, or superpower, through AUKUS.
"This is about propulsion. This is not about acquiring nuclear weapons," he said, pledging continued adherence to obligations under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
US President Joe Biden previously clarified that Australia's submarine fleet would be powered by nuclear reactors, but "conventionally-armed" when it comes to weaponry.
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