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06
April
2022

US, UK, Australia team up on hypersonic weapons with eye on Russia and China

The U.S., the U.K. and Australia will start joint work on hypersonic missile technology and electronic warfare capabilities under the umbrella of the AUKUS security pact.

The decision, announced Tuesday by the leaders of the three governments, is the latest move in an international race for hypersonic weapons, which can travel up to 10 times the speed of sound, making them much harder to detect.

It is also a further example of the deepening security partnership between the U.S., Britain and Australia, after their creation of AUKUS last September scuppered a mega submarine deal for France, souring relations between Washington and Paris. Developing hypersonic missiles represents a long-term aim for Canberra, which is seeking to step up the long-range strike capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.

Announcing the cooperation in a joint statement, U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a warning to Russia and China, two countries that have recently exhibited their hypersonic weapons.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to AUKUS and to a free and open Indo-Pacific. In light of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, we reiterated our unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.”

The U.S., Britain and Australia agreed to “commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defence innovation,” they said.

In March, Russia said it had used a hypersonic missile to strike an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine. Last year, China reportedly tested two hypersonic weapons, causing alarm at the Pentagon.

The U.S. successfully tested a hypersonic missile in mid-March but did not announce it for two weeks to avoid increasing tensions with Russia, according to media reports.

Biden, Johnson and Morrison said they were “pleased” with their progress to help Australia set up a “conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability” and restated their willingness to “seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners.”

Under AUKUS, officials from the three member countries have set up 17 trilateral working groups, of which nine are focused on the nuclear-powered submarines program and the remainder target other advanced technologies, including quantum, artificial intelligence, cyber capabilities, and hypersonic missiles.

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