On September 15, 2021, President Biden announced a deal that would give nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. The reason for the deal, though not directly stated by President Biden, is to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific. While the deal’s announcement came as a surprise for some, particularly France, this is not the first time the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) established military connections with the United States.
On September 2, just two weeks before President Biden announced the nuclear-powered submarine deal, the consul general for the Commonwealth of Australia in New York and Northeast United States, Nicholas Greiner, and political advisor Iona Main, visited Newport, Rhode Island’s Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division to learn more about the partnership between NUWC and the Royal Australian Navy. The visit was focused on improving Australia’s Collins class submarine fleet.
According to NUWC Newport’s website, NUWC Newport is “one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport is the [US] Navy's full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering, and fleet support center for submarine warfare systems and many other systems associated with the undersea battlespace.”
This is not the first time an Australian official has visited NUWC Newport: in May of this year, Australian Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos paid NUWC Newport a visit. Earlier, on May 10, 2018, former Australian Ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, toured the Newport facility and met with Australians working at the center. These visits highlight the military ties between not only the United States and Royal Australian Navy, but also the Royal Australian Navy and Rhode Island.
In addition to these official visits, Australian and American military ties historically run deep. In 2015, the United States was Australia’s number one arms supplier, accounting for 67% of all of Australia’s military purchases since 2004. Additionally, Australia is the number one destination for American arms exports, accounting for 10% of total exports between 2009-2013. The United States and Australia also work together in several multilateral organizations, such as the Australia, New Zealand, and United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”), FVEY (“Five Eyes”), and the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC). Thus, official Australian visits to Newport, Rhode Island, and President Biden’s recent nuclear-powered submarine deal are just the latest examples of Australia’s military ties to the United States.
Kimery Lynch is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She recently graduated from the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa with her MA in Asian Studies.