Beyond AUKUS : A Strategic Rebalance or American arms sale Venture?

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Conventional military strength is measured in terms of defense spending, armed forces and organization, weapons and platforms, signature capabilities and military posture. For states with large militaries, often synergized with equally huge giant military industrial complex, it becomes necessary to form a technological ecosystem in defense sphere because states are more than willing to dedicate their largest sums for defense acquisitions.

AUKUS deal specifically would sell 8 nuclear submarines to Australia which dedicated largest ever sum for military hardware acquisition in its history. Interesting to note is military capability of a state like Australia which has a comparatively small navy in contrast to many Asia state , operating nearly 43 vessels with 15,000 personnel , and yet is pursuing a special submarine fleet .

It can also be brought under question whether AUKUS really is an intended action for strategizing balance of power against China or is it simply an arms deal perpetuated by American military industrial complex.

Accordingly , it is significant that Austrailia becomes the latest country to receive US nuclear submarines , a luxury US accorded to UK only in last  decades . This symbolizes US arms industry to re synergizing its faculties to grab hefty arms deal , be it selling sensitive military hardware which US was adamant to sell even to its closer allies for the sake of keeping technological superiority.

 

AUKUS marks first ever US sale of nuclear submarine to a non nuclear state , which also doesn’t operate any other nuclear technology . UK was sold submarines by US, which also signifies the role UK has played in AUKUS. No wonder the deal has often been portrayed as an ANGLO SAXON alliance against China.

But this deal does mark American’s willingness to sell advanced and sensitive military hardware , where it once hesitated to even sell to crucial partner state during any joint conflict i.e Vietnam, Gulf War and War on Terror.

Nuclear submarine unlike conventional diesel electric could operate for longer duration and possess better armament. In recent years these submarines have found roles in sensitive intelligence gathering and special operations while maintaining stealth . While arming such submarines with nuclear arsenal in near future cannot be ruled , it surely puts the AUKUS entailment by experts these days  out of proportion.

AUKUS entails US arms industry re organizing itself for decades to come. Provided the war on terror pushed countries to direct military spending on counter terror structures and technology due to which very few states pursued any hefty bilateral arms deals. Even those which did has the rationale of combating terror outfits with those weapons ( includes KSA , UAE , QATAR , Turkey , India , Pakistan , Philippines , Ukraine etc).

The arms competition argument is also augmented by fact that after AUKUS another multi billion deal with Europeans was scrapped as Australia publicized its desire to buy nearly 60 UH-60 Blackhawk American helicopters , to surprisingly replace a not-so-outdated Taipan Helicopter fleet. During a press conference the Australian Defense minister clearly mentioned of the Chinese threat emanating from Indo Pacific.

It might be possible that AUKUS might be the first step in many such surprise deals to come in near future.

This would entail states with large military force and spending like Japan , South Korea , Taiwan , India and other recipients of US military hardware in the Asia Pacific region. Japan and South have operated advanced American systems and even have credible naval fleets for which US would strive to be the primary suppliers in terms of combat and support systems.

The implications of AUKUS in terms of US foreign policy have to be gauged in terms of US policy challenges elsewhere, provided no policy can act in unison of greater context . This refers to challenges to US in Middle East , particularly Iran and recent amassing of Russian troops on Ukrainian border . While AUKUS cannot be termed as merely an arms deal as it is being formalized as an alliance , it can be said to have ‘American military industrial complex’ written all over it.

Naval Strike doctrine which US follows in carrying out naval and maritime operations show the way things for US allies would be going to . AUKUS after all will not remain limited to submarine vessels only. Functionality requires a whole array of arsenal which augments Submarine Warfare . That would include aerial platforms ( Australia buying American F-35s and P-8 aircraft ) , land based naval systems , Supply vessels , destroyers and frigates etc. For a military the size of Australia which mostly operated Ex British systems , a lot of spending has to be done if it really would operationalize only 8 nuclear submarines.

It would be interesting to see the interplay of weapon producers, policymakers rationalizing a reorienting of Grand strategy and Americas foreign partners balancing relations whilst procuring Western weapon systems at such an alarming pace.

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