AUKUS Alliance

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    • Recently, the Australia, United States and United Kingdom alliance made an announcement to develop hypersonic missiles.

    About

    • They will work together via the security alliance known as AUKUS to develop hypersonic missiles. 
    • It is a very fast system that cannot be intercepted by any current missile defence system.
    • The move comes amid growing concern by the US and allies about China’s growing military assertiveness in the Pacific.

    AUKUS Alliance

    • Background:
      • The transfer of sensitive submarine technology by the U.S. to the U.K. is a sui generis arrangement based on their long-standing Mutual Defence Agreement of 1958. 
      • The AUKUS joint statement clearly acknowledges that trilateral defence ties are decades old, and that AUKUS aims to further joint capabilities and interoperability
        • The word “further” is key, since defence cooperation already exists. 
        • The other areas covered are cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, apart from undersea capabilities. 
    • About: 
      • Based on a shared commitment of its three members to deepening diplomatic, security and defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to meet the challenges of the 21st century. 
      • Under it, the U.S., U.K will help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific region.
    • Focus: 
      • On integrating all defence and security related science, supply chains, industrial bases and technology.
      • On protecting shared values and promoting security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

     

    Significance of AUKUS Alliance 

    • Novel Engagements:
      • It will involve a new architecture of engagements across emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, cyber capabilities, and additional undersea capabilities.
      • It will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) in cooperation with the UK & the US. 
      • It also reaffirms that, after Brexit, the US still wants the UK, and not the EU, engaged as its key military partner. 
    • Containing China: 
      • Even though this has not been stated explicitly, AUKUS will contain the rise of China, particularly its rapid militarisation and aggressive behaviour in the Pacific region, especially in and around the South China Sea.
    • Shifting US Priorities in Asia:
      • It also gives US focus for its post-Afghanistan tilt to Asia.
    • Regional Security in the Indo-Pacific:
      • The AUKUS deal seeks to address core US concerns of regional security, deterrence, and balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. 
    • Complementing QUAD:
      • It will enhance Australia’s contribution to its other partnerships, including the QUAD. The Quad and AUKUS are distinct, yet complementary. 

     

    Image Courtesy: Graphic 

     

    Challenges

    • Increasing Rivalry with China
      • AUKUS will challenge China’s naval expansion and could hurt its commercial interests.
      • In such a scenario, their relations with China are going to deteriorate.
    • Dissent in ASEAN
      • Any sudden accretion in Australia’s naval capabilities is bound to cause unease in the region. 
      • There is the matter of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) disunity over the emergence of AUKUS. 

    Implications on India

    • The pact allows India—a key US partner and Quad member—the freedom to set the terms of engagement with its neighbour, without formally participating in a China-containment initiative
    • AUKUS is a broader coalition of countries in the Indo-Pacific region to deal with China. Any measure that boosts the capability of India’s partners is a welcome move.
    • However, AUKUS could push China into assuming a more adventurous posture by deploying more warships and submarines in the Eastern Indian Ocean. 
    • Thus, any miscalculated move could be detrimental to Indian interests.

    Way Ahead

    • India needs to display solidarity with its Quad partners, especially at a time when tensions with China are again rising.
    • India should focus on close defence cooperation with strategically important nations without resorting to a security alliance.

    Hypersonic Weapon

    • About: 
      • The term “hypersonic” describes any speed faster than five times that of sound, which is roughly 760 miles (1,220 kilometres) per hour at sea level, meaning these weapons can travel at least 3,800 miles per hour.
      • They are manoeuvrable weapons that can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound. 
      • Most hypersonic vehicles primarily use scramjet technology
      • At hypersonic speeds, the air molecules around the flight vehicle start to change, breaking apart or gaining a charge in a process called ionisation.
    • Types of hypersonic weapons:
      • There are two main types of these weapons:
        • Glide vehicles: They are launched from a rocket before gliding to their target, because of the challenges of achieving hypersonic propulsion of missiles.
        • Cruise missiles: They have engines called scramjets that use the air’s oxygen and produce thrust during their flight, allowing them to cruise at a steady speed and altitude.
    • Significance of Hypersonic:
      • Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons don’t follow a predetermined, arched trajectory and can manoeuvre on the way to their destination.
      • They are fast, low-flying, and highly manoeuvrable weapons designed to be too quick and agile for traditional missile defence systems to detect in time.
    • Indian Initiatives: 
      • India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 13.
      • India is also developing an indigenous, dual-capable hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) program and successfully tested a Mach 6 scramjet in June 2019 and September 2020.

    Scramjet

    • A scramjet (supersonic-combustion ramjet) is a ramjet engine in which the airflow through the engine remains supersonic, or greater than the speed of sound. 
    • Scramjet powered vehicles are envisioned to operate at speeds up to at least Mach 15.
    • In the chamber, the air mixes with the fuel to ignite supersonic combustion but the cruiser’s flight will be at a hypersonic speed of Mach six to seven. So it is called supersonic combustion ramjet or Scramjet.

     

    Ramjet engine

    • It is a form of air-breathing jet engine that uses the engine’s forward motion to compress incoming air without an axial compressor or a centrifugal compressor.
    • Ramjets work most efficiently at supersonic speeds around Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) and can operate up to speeds of Mach 6.
    • Ramjet powered missiles provide greater range and a higher average speed compared to missiles powered by solid propellants.

    Source: IE