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DOD Plans Indo-Pacific Innovation Challenge

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III today announced the start of a series of defense innovation challenges beginning early next year and involving industry partners in AUKUS, the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Marines fire a machine gun at night.
Marine Machine
Marines assigned to Marine Rotational Force – Darwin 23 fire an M240B medium machine gun at Mount Bundey Training Area, Australia, Aug. 15, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Brayden Daniel
VIRIN: 230815-M-RA094-1408D

The challenges will focus on development of improved electronic warfare systems, he said. 

In making the announcement at a press conference in Mountain View, California, Austin was joined by Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who also serves as defense minister, and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps. 

Three people stand behind podiums with flags behind them.
News Conference
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps, right, and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles update reporters on the Australia-United Kingdom-United States Security Partnership during a briefing from Mountain View, Calif., Dec. 1, 2023.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 231201-D-TT977-1410

The conference took place during a visit to the Defense Innovation Unit at Moffett Field. DIU is the department’s premier organization for accelerating the adoption of commercial technology. 

The goal of AUKUS, Austin said, is a free and open Indo-Pacific region. 

Divers swim in the ocean near the hull of a ship.
Search Operations
Royal Australian navy clearance divers and U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 sailors conduct hull search operations in Sydney, Australia, during Exercise Malabar 2023, Aug. 15, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Castro
VIRIN: 230815-N-SB118-1120C

The defense leaders at DIU saw capability demonstrations focused on such things as artificial intelligence, integrated air defense systems, tactical augmented reality, space architecture and virtual training for air dominance.  

A senior defense official said that AUKUS is collaborating on artificial intelligence, autonomy, advanced cyber, electronic warfare, hypersonics, counterhypersonics, quantum technologies and undersea warfare. 

A submarine navigates in a body of water.
USS North Carolina
USS North Carolina surfaces during Exercise Talisman Sabre 23 in the Java Sea, July 22, 2023. Talisman Sabre is the largest bilateral exercise between Australia and the United States, advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening relationships and interoperability among key allies and enhancing our collective capabilities to respond to a wide array of potential security concerns.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class RuKiyah Mack
VIRIN: 230722-N-QF023-1271
Troops evacuate simulated casualty to a helicopter.
Casualty Carry
Sailors with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin 23 carry a simulated casualty to a UH-1Y Venom helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 (Reinforced), during a mass casualty evacuation exercise at Robertson Barracks, Australia, Aug. 16, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel Childs
VIRIN: 230816-M-TH104-1640

The official also said the three nations are also establishing an AUKUS Industry Forum with trilateral government and industry representatives to help inform policy, technical and commercial frameworks to facilitate the development and delivery of advanced capabilities. The initial meeting of that forum will occur in the first half of 2024.  

The official noted that work is on pace for the nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed attack submarine program.

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