Defence pact: Australia, UK, US to work on hypersonics

Following a call between leaders of the new defence alliance, Britain, the United States, and Australia agreed to cooperate on hypersonic weapons and electronic warfare capabilities on Tuesday, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office.

The new AUKUS alliance, which was announced in September, pushed Australia to reject a contract for a conventional French submarine in favour of a nuclear submarine programme backed by the US and UK, causing a rift with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Johnson, US President Joe Biden, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated in a joint statement that they were satisfied with the progress of the programme for conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, and that the allies will cooperate in other areas as well.

The statement added, “We also pledged today to begin new trilateral collaboration on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, as well as electronic warfare capabilities.”

The US and Australia already have a hypersonic weapon programme named SCIFiRE (Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment), which stands for Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment. Officials from the United Kingdom said that while the country will not join the initiative at this time, the three countries would collaborate on research and development in the area to broaden their choices.

As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Biden’s government is investing in the research and development of hypersonic missiles, which travel at five times the speed of sound.

“In light of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine,” the leaders said, “we reiterated our unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes without coercion.” They also reaffirmed their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

On February 24, Russia said it began a “special military operation” in Ukraine to demilitarise the country. Ukraine and the West reject the Kremlin’s position as an excuse for an unjustified invasion.

When asked about a hypersonic weapons cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun warned against actions that could ignite a crisis similar to the Ukraine conflict in other regions of the world.

“Anyone who does not want to see the Ukrainian situation spread to other regions of the world should refrain from doing things that could lead to a similar disaster,” Zhang told reporters. “As the Chinese proverb goes, if you don’t like something, don’t impose it on others.”

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