In a significant development, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have announced their collaboration to implement an artificial intelligence (AI) system to enhance the tracking of Chinese submarines in the Pacific. This initiative, emerging from the Aukus Pillar II agreement, represents a strategic move to counter China’s rapidly expanding military capabilities.
The core of this collaboration involves using AI algorithms to process sonar data, a task undertaken by crews operating the US Navy’s premier maritime surveillance and attack aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon. This technology is poised to significantly expedite and refine the process of detecting underwater activities, particularly those of Chinese submarines, which have been a growing concern for these allied nations.
Defence chiefs from the three countries, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, and UK Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps, have underscored the importance of this advancement. During a meeting in California, they emphasized that these AI-driven capabilities would greatly enhance anti-submarine warfare by allowing for timely and high-volume data exploitation.
Strategic implications and future plans
This tri-nation effort is not limited to AI integration. It extends to broader aspects of military cooperation under the Aukus partnership. Pillar I of Aukus focuses on developing Australia’s domestic nuclear-powered submarine capability, projecting to field a new joint submarine by 2040. Pillar II, under which the current AI initiative falls, encompasses cooperation in various technological domains, including quantum technologies, advanced cybersecurity, and hypersonic weapons.
In addition to AI-enhanced sonar data processing, the three countries plan to integrate their capabilities to launch and recover undersea drone vehicles from torpedo tubes on their current submarines. This initiative aims to expand the range and capabilities of undersea forces and will support the development of Australia’s new submarine, the SSN-AUKUS.
The Pentagon’s recent annual report on China’s military highlights the urgency of these measures. According to the report, China currently operates a substantial fleet of submarines, including nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, nuclear-powered attack submarines, and a growing number of diesel-powered/air-independent attack submarines. The Chinese navy’s submarine force is projected to expand significantly by 2035, further emphasizing the need for advanced tracking and surveillance capabilities.
Broadening the scope of Aukus
Further enhancing the Aukus partnership, the three nations have announced several initiatives to foster collaboration and innovation. These include establishing an “Industry Forum” to align policy, technical, and commercial frameworks for advanced military capabilities and creating an “Aukus Defense Investors Network” to strengthen industry financing and connectivity.
Additionally, the allies plan to launch a series of “Innovation Prize Challenges” to encourage industries from the three countries to develop innovative solutions to complex military challenges. The first challenge, slated for early next year, will focus on electronic warfare, highlighting these nations’ collaborative spirit and commitment to technological advancement.
The US, UK, and Australia’s decision to implement AI in tracking Chinese submarines reflects a strategic response to China’s expanding military influence. This collaboration underlines the importance of technology-sharing agreements like Aukus Pillar II in enhancing defense capabilities and ensuring regional stability. As these nations continue to expand their cooperative efforts, the focus remains on maintaining a balance of power in the increasingly contested Indo-Pacific region.