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Immediate Release

Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on AUKUS Optimal Pathway Announcement

Today, I was honored to join President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Albanese, and U.K. Prime Minister Sunak as they announced the AUKUS Optimal Pathway, a commitments-based, phased plan for Australia to acquire conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines. This is the next step forward in the transformational partnership among our three great democracies. 

In September 2021, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom laid out an ambitious vision for our countries that will strengthen our combined military capabilities, boost our defense industrial capacity, enhance our ability to deter aggression, and promote our shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific. AUKUS is a shared, long-term investment that will allow us to build defense advantages that endure for decades to come.  

One of the most important parts of this partnership is increasing each of our countries’ submarine capabilities. Under the first phase of the Optimal Pathway, the United States and the United Kingdom will immediately increase port visits of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia and then, as early as 2027, will begin rotating through Australia under Submarine Rotational Force-West.  In the next phase, the United States intends to sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the 2030s, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed. Finally, Australia and the United Kingdom will develop and deploy SSN-AUKUS, a new conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine that incorporates critical U.S. technologies. Each phase of the Optimal Pathway will set the highest nuclear nonproliferation standards.

We’re also working to strengthen our countries’ industrial bases; to eliminate barriers to information-sharing and technological cooperation; and to develop and deliver advanced capabilities in such areas as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and maritime domain awareness. All these investments will allow us to work more closely with our valued and highly capable allies to deter aggression in the Indo-Pacific—a region whose future is crucial for U.S. national security and the rules-based international order that makes us all safer.  

I would like to thank the many public servants in all three proud democracies whose hard work has made this historic announcement possible. I look forward to working with my team and with our Australian and British counterparts to continue to move toward our shared vision of a stable, secure Indo-Pacific and an open world of rules and rights.