Exploring AUKUS

The Indian Ocean Defence & Security 2024 conference in Perth will examine the implications of AUKUS and the Quad on regional diplomacy.

The Indian Ocean Defence & Security 2024 (IODS 2024) conference in Perth will examine the implications of AUKUS and the Quad on regional diplomacy, industry, and cooperation.

In July 2024 the Western Australian capital city of Perth will become the epicentre of debate on how the international relationships driving Australia’s $368 billion nuclear powered submarine purchase may play out in regional diplomacy, cooperation and industry development.

For three days, 24-26 July 2024, the IODS 2024 conference and exhibition at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre will unpack the real-world issues and impacts of the tripartite Australia, United Kingdom and United States AUKUS agreement and the four-nation “Quad” dialogue between Australia, the US, Japan and India. 

With the theme “Where AUKUS Meets The Quad”, the event has already confirmed speakers including:

  • Royal Australian Navy Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond, AO, RAN;
  • Admiral Sir Ben Key KCB CBE ADC, United Kingdom First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff;
  • Dr. Kurt Campbell, Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States and Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs on the US National Security Council;
  • Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence  Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) in New Delhi.


AUKUS is best known for the paradigm-changing Pillar 1 program to equip the Royal Australian Navy with nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed submarines. This will be the largest single defence acquisition in Australian history, delivering a platform acknowledged as the most complex moving structure on the planet.

Over the past 18 months, Australia, the UK and US have worked in close partnership to develop the Optimal Pathway for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.

The plan begins with Australian military and civilian personnel embedding with the Royal Navy and the US Navy, and within UK and US submarine industrial bases, to accelerate the skills development of Australia’s workforce and sailors.

There will be an increased tempo of visits to Australia from UK and US nuclear-powered submarines, with the UK and US having a rotational presence at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia from 2027, ultimately comprising one UK Astute class submarine and up to four US Virginia class submarines.

The increased presence will enable Australia to grow the required submariner cohort to operate its own Virginia class submarines from the early 2030s, while it also grows the wider workforce within and beyond Defence to work with nuclear-powered submarines.

Now in the design phase with BAE Systems UK, the SSN-AUKUS submarine itself will be a common platform operated by both the UK and Australia, with one production line at Barrow-in-Furness in England and one at Osborne in South Australia.

If all goes to schedule the Royal Navy will see its first SSN-AUKUS in the late 2030s, while the first Australian submarine will be delivered in the early 2040s from Osborne. 

Australian submarines will then come off the Osborne production line every three years, with the Royal Australian Navy operating a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines by the mid-2050s.

Pillar 1 is seen as transformational for Australian industry. But if the AUKUS program delivers as promised, the “Advanced Capabilities Pillar 2” will also offer opportunities for a broad range of Australian specialist industry, in fields from undersea capabilities to hypersonics, electronic warfare, AI and cyber. 

First announced in September 2021, Pillar 2 began with four areas of technological capability: cyber capabilities (now advanced cyber), artificial intelligence (now artificial intelligence and autonomy), quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities. In April 2022, this list expanded to include a further four areas: hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities, electronic warfare, innovation, and information sharing.

Pillar 2 is aimed at sharing technology and increasing interoperability between the armed forces of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The three countries say one of the aims of AUKUS is to “foster deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains”.

The Quad

Likewise the Quad, which was born out of international cooperation in response to the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, is focused on delivering outcomes for the Indo-Pacific across health security, climate change, technologies, disaster relief and counter-terrorism.

While Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade public information emphasises that the Quad is about diplomacy rather than security, statements of intent from the Quad heads meeting in May 2023 also reiterated that “all countries have a role in contributing to regional peace, stability, and prosperity, as well as upholding international law, including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the rules-based international order”.

As Australia’s gateway to the Indian Ocean region, Western Australia has long acted as the catalyst for engagement on regional issues. Beginning as the Perth USAsia Centre WA Indo-Pacific Conference in 2018, the Indian Ocean Defence & Security conference has evolved to become a leading international forum for exploring the challenges and opportunities of Australia’s strategic stance on the Indian Ocean and its partner nations. Previous events have explored the sovereignty of supply chains, protection of natural resources and the role of Western Australia and its defence industry.

The event’s 2024 theme, Where AUKUS Meets The Quad, will explore two of Australia’s premier international diplomatic partnerships and the challenges and opportunities they present for international engagement and the role of industry in supporting diplomacy, defence and security policy in the region. 

Western Australia’s Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation and Defence West have partnered with Indo Pacific 2023 organiser AMDA Foundation Limited to deliver
the event.

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