The US and Australia will join forces with Japan to generate next-generation military drones and the leaders of the two countries announced Wednesday, stepping up actions in the field of “collaborative combat aircraft.”
U.S. President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese both released a statement on Wednesday after their White House meeting.
According to the statement, the two allies will “explore trilateral cooperation with Japan” on unmanned aerial systems to enhance interoperability and accelerate technology transfer in the rapidly emerging field of collaborative combat aircraft and autonomy.
Nikkei Asia reported that the Collaborative combat aircraft is a new U.S. Air Force concept that envisions unmanned aircraft operating autonomously or side by side with piloted aircraft. Knowing Japan has the best technology in artificial intelligence and robotics that can support and enhance such capabilities.
Collaboration on unmanned aerial vehicles reflects the role of attack and surveillance drones on the modern battlefield. In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the South Caucasus, drones supplied by Turkey and Israel enabled Azerbaijan’s decisive victory over Armenia. In the Ukraine war, both sides have mobilized drones to inflict damage on the opponent while reducing risks on their side.
The US and Japan have already started collaboration on unmanned platforms. In December, Washington and Tokyo issued a collective statement stating the allies would execute joint research to develop, test, and evaluate autonomous systems capabilities. Such military drones could complement Japan’s next fighter jet, which the country is developing with the U.K. and Italy, the statement said.
The New Era Of US-Australia Strategic Collaboration
The leaders Biden and Albanese described the status of the bilateral relationship as “a new era of US-Australia strategic cooperation,” in which the partnership is expanded into new domains to meet the growing complexity of global and regional challenges.
Biden and Albanese also discussed the AUKUS defense pact with the U.K. and lauded “substantial progress” being made to support Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. They pointed to the first batch of Australian military personnel graduating from a US nuclear power school, and the Virginia-class attack submarine USS North Carolina completing the first nuclear-powered submarine port visit to Australia.
Concerns have mounted over the lack of shipyard capacity in the US and the UK to support Australia in acquiring submarines. One navy leader said that building extra submarines for Australia would be “detrimental” to the overstretched industrial base.
Zach Cooper, a senior fellow at the center-right Washington think tank American Enterprise Institute, said, “At the end of the day, the Chinese have so much industrial capacity that the only way for us to compete with them effectively is to work as allies to maximize not just American capacity, but allied capacity. It requires us to think very differently than we do today.”
On Wednesday, in a congressional hearing, Mara Karlin, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the Defense Department, highlighted that “the submarine industrial base can and will support AUKUS.”
The supplemental budget that Biden requested was sent to Congress on October 20 included $3.4 billion to sustain the submarine industrial base.
Karlin urged Congress to move ahead with the allocation, calling submarines “one of our effective capabilities for ensuring deterrence.”