To Counter CCP, AUKUS Needs to Deepen Cooperation in Key Defense Technologies

To Counter CCP, AUKUS Needs to Deepen Cooperation in Key Defense Technologies
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L), US President Joe Biden (C) and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a press conference after a trilateral meeting during the AUKUS summit in San Diego, Calif., on March 13, 2023. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

AUKUS, the trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, needs to accelerate and deepen cooperation on key defence technologies, including hypersonics, electronic warfare, and undersea capabilities, in order to effectively counter the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),  a think tank report shows.

The collective strength of the AUKUS countries has turned around China's capabilities in key military areas, including China's strategic capabilities in autonomous systems operation technology, advanced robotics, adversarial AI-reverse engineering, and protective cyber, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) 's Critical Technology Tracker revealed in its report on June 6.
To date, AUKUS' trilateral efforts have focused on its Pillar 1 objective, which is to support Australia in acquiring conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.

"Yet achieving Pillar 2, the technology programs, is arguably both of greater long-term value and more strategically challenging," reads the report.

"Pillar 2 aims to enhance the U.S., UK, and Australia's technological edge—and, implicitly, to counter China's technological advancements—by pooling resources in advanced military capabilities areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cyber technology, undersea capabilities, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, electronic warfare, and information-sharing."
A nuclear propulsion Ohio class submarine, the USS Florida, sails on Jan. 22, 2003, off the coast of the Bahamas. As part of the AUKUS deal, Australia will get the tech for nuclear-powered subs. (David Nagle/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)
A nuclear propulsion Ohio class submarine, the USS Florida, sails on Jan. 22, 2003, off the coast of the Bahamas. As part of the AUKUS deal, Australia will get the tech for nuclear-powered subs. (David Nagle/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Report Highlights the Importance of Accelerating Collaboration

ASPI's analysis of two million scientific papers showed that Beijing had a lead in hypersonics, electronic warfare, and key undersea capabilities.

"Across a number of technology areas, China's lead is so great that no aggregation of countries exceeds its share—highlighting the importance of the accelerating effect of greater collaboration between like-minded partners," the authors argued.

Among the 23 key technologies, ASPI's talent tracker data shows that 14.2 percent of high-impact authors working in China completed their postgraduate training in an AUKUS country (U.S. = 8.5 percent, UK = 3.8 percent, Australia = 1.9 percent), while 4.3 percent trained in the EU, 1.9 percent in Canada, 1.6 percent in Singapore, and 1.1 percent in Japan.

That knowledge import is highest in defence categories like hypersonic detection (AUKUS 19.5 percent) and electronic warfare (AUKUS 17.6 percent).

The CCP has been accused of stealing U.S. trade secrets and intellectual property for years.

In March, former Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson said that the CCP has copied U.S. military technology to build its fifth-generation fighter.

"What we know is that because of the espionage efforts, [China's] J-20 is more advanced than it otherwise would be, and that's the important point here," Anderson told Fox News Digital.
"They have profited greatly from their thievery over the years," he said. "They've put it to good use and come up with an advanced fifth-generation fighter."

AUKUS Achieves First Breakthrough in AI

The report comes after the AUKUS partners announced they had made a global breakthrough in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, with the first live retraining of autonomous systems used on surveillance drone technology.

The AUKUS coalition said that during a trial in Upavon in Wiltshire, UK, the alliance achieved several world-first breakthroughs with jointly made AI technology. This includes live retraining at the edge of models in flight and the interchange and use of AI models on uncrewed aerial vehicles.

"The work saw the initial joint deployment of Australian, UK, and U.S. AI-enabled assets in a collaborative swarm to detect and track military targets in a representative environment in real-time," a media release said. "Accelerating the development of these technologies will have a massive impact on coalition military capability."

The trial was completed under the AUKUS Pact's Pillar II, which is pursuing a trilateral program to accelerate collective knowledge on a tranche of leading-edge technologies and capabilities, to enhance the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

AUKUS Partners Say Breakthrough Will Provide a Kinetic Advantage

The trilateral partners are currently looking to push these technologies into all three nations' military capabilities to increase their response time to threats.

Lt. Colonel Richard Craig, who participated in the trial, said that while AI has many benefits for the military, this particular trial demonstrated that the coalition could increase the number of sensors able to engage with the enemy.

"So AI and autonomy will give us an operational advantage by increasing our ability to engage enemy forces at range and increasing our survivability."

The UK's Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Financial and Military Capability), General Rob Magowan, noted that the coalition's advances in AI will deliver the three nations' capabilities to defeat both current and future kinetic threats.

"The trial demonstrates the military advantage of AUKUS advanced capabilities, working in coalition to identify, track, and counter potential adversaries from a greater distance," said Magowan. "Service personnel, scientists, and engineers from our three nations combined to develop and share critical information during operations to enhance commanders' decision making."

Meanwhile, Abe Denmark, Senior AUKUS Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, noted that "the development and deployment of advanced artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to transform the way we approach defense and security challenges."

"We recognize the immense importance of this collaboration in strengthening the combined national security of our nations," said Denmark. "This capability demonstration is truly a shared effort and is a critical step in our trilateral initiative to stay ahead of emerging threats.

Cindy Li is a reporter based in Australia. She covers national news with a focus on China-related issues.
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