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AUKUS Pillar 2 – Australian Perspective

AUKUS Pillar 2 – Australian Perspective

It is an exciting time for defence industry and Australia’s undersea warfare capability. The thought of autonomous vessels surveying, communicating, detecting, and performing tasks, either on their own or with naval vessels (warships and submarines) brings a whole new level of capability for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) that only years ago seemed fictional.

With the surge of undersea capabilities currently being constructed in the Asia Pacific region, AUKUS comes at a critical time for the Royal Australian Navy and its allies.

The challenge for Australia, with its vast maritime approaches is how it dominates the underwater domain through control and denial. We are excited with the range of acoustic technology and tools that through Pillar 2, will support Australia’s ability to win the underwater battle.


Announced in September 2021, AUKUS is a defence and security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Through both its Pillars, AUKUS provides each of its partners with the ability to share, collaborate and work together providing acceleration for various technology areas including nuclear powered submarines and other capability enhancements.

Not Just Nuclear-Powered Submarines

The first focus for AUKUS was on the nuclear submarine program under Pillar 1, cancelling all previous work on SEA1000 and cooperating with the UK and US to acquire nuclear powered submarines over conventional ones. Since the announcement, Pillar 2 has been introduced and provided other specified areas of collaboration for each of the AUKUS nations. It focuses on developing a range of capabilities over several key areas; this will not only provide the ability between AUKUS nations to accelerate these advanced capabilities, but also continue to pave the way for closer military ties and more importantly, interoperability between them. There may be opportunity for other nations to cooperate and recent announcements point to New Zealand taking an active interest.

Undersea Warfare

From Australia’s perspective, the focus areas afforded through AUKUS are critical for the future security in the Indo-Pacific region. The region has never seen a buildup of maritime forces like it is currently witnessing; these forces, both surface and subsurface, can venture anywhere that the regions oceans allow them to. It is imperative that Australia, bordered by three oceans, views its vast underwater approaches as a priority to monitor, deter and defend against undersea adversary capabilities.

The establishment of maritime undersea ranges, the ability to communicate with them via autonomous underwater vessels (AUVs), while being able to track them acoustically will be part of the undersea warfare solution for Australia.

Time Scales – the Now and the Later

Pillar 1 is set in motion, work between nations has commenced with a pathway to acquire both current US and hybrid UK versions of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. But the acquisition will take time; the construction of nuclear-powered submarines, buildup of personnel, the training of their crews and support networks and upgrading of facilities and infrastructure will not be fully established for some time. Pillar 2 by comparison, will start immediately with work already commencing in Australia through the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA). ASCA will connect and streamline the defence innovation system to drive capability development and acquisition pathways at speed, and more effectively harness and coordinate the innovation ecosystem. In fact, all three nations are working towards each of the Pillar 2 capabilities through development and sharing.

These technology areas, particularly underwater, will transform the AUKUS members’ military interoperability and technology over the 2020s and through the 2030s, with the nuclear-powered submarines supplementing further deterrent capabilities when delivered.

A Changing World – Asymmetrical Capabilities

AUKUS Pillar 2 is about delivering advanced capabilities, including through technologies that can autonomously extend both the reach and range of the military. The Ukraine conflict has seen the rise of autonomous vehicles that have provided a transitional view of modern warfare, not only from the air domain, but also from land and maritime domains.

These capabilities have been highlighted in Australia’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR) as asymmetric. Capabilities like these will play an increasingly important role in the defence of Australia and its military. These asymmetrical capabilities originate not just from defence industry but from a range of industries, such as the offshore oil and gas and communications sector, that have been utilising technologies such as AUVs for decades.

The technology will be modified to carry a military payload to become force multipliers, working in concert with other AUVs, submarines or warships that will provide the RAN and Australia with valuable deterrent and surveillance technologies.

Cooperation Between Nations and Industry

While the US, UK and Australia have always been close allies, the AUKUS partnership is a technology accelerator between the governments of the three nations with a timescale and accompanying gateway of technology transfers, not seen before.

This gateway of technology transfer is not just from the military, but as previously mentioned, technology firms with high Technical Readiness Level (TRL) capabilities that have been working in industries such as oil and gas can benchmark their decades of working with autonomous vessels for defence.

With the backing of 50 years of experience in energy, ocean science and defence, Forcys Australia are introducing game changing technology through its expertise in the underwater domain with highly sophisticated, TRL9, – agnostic payloads for platforms. Through our technology partners, Forcys specialise in autonomous vessel payloads, acoustic underwater communications, sonars and camera capabilities, providing the benchmark for future AUVs and remotely operated asymmetrical capabilities.

In addition to the above, Forcys expertise in intruder detection sonars, command and control software and remotely operated towed vehicles, environmental sensors and laser scanners already provides world leading capabilities deployed with many navies around the globe.

Industry proven technology can help to rapidly accelerate Pillar 2 delivery

Forcys Australia are already supplying sensors to the RAN, Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG) and key industry stakeholders, we’re especially excited about the opportunities for Forcys with AUKUS Pillar 2 undersea warfare. Our capabilities are not just limited to asymmetric warfare; they can be utilised for underwater ranges, long range acoustic communications, MCM, along with tracking and protection of critical national infrastructure.

If you’d like to hear more about our vision for the AUKUS partnership, contact us for more information.

Sean Leydon retired from the Royal Australian Navy in 2020. Trained as an engineer, Sean completed an MBA as well as Masters degrees in both Strategy and Management and Maritime Studies.