US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin talks with his counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Richard Marles, during a recent visit to Australia. (DVIDS)

WASHINGTON — The Defense Innovation Unit announced today it is launching the first prize challenge among the three AUKUS nations with a focus on electromagnetic spectrum capabilities and plans to select winning companies later this year.

“The trilateral problem statement calls for capabilities that will allow us to leverage EMS technologies for both offensive and defensive purposes,” DIU, the Pentagon’s research and development agency known as being a conduit to Silicon Valley, said in a statement. “The EMS presents a congested and competitive environment, with new technologies and solution sets that have the potential to provide asymmetric advantages for AUKUS and other partners.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, alongside his counterparts, announced in December the pending international competitions between American, British and Australian industry, as well as other initiatives associated with the AUKUS security pact’s Pillar II.

The first prize challenge is centered around finding, tracking and engaging targets through electromagnetic spectrum capabilities, according to DIU’s statement. The competition will run in all three countries simultaneously and be coordinated by DIU in the United States, the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator in Australia and the Defence and Security Accelerator in the United Kingdom. Winning companies will be selected in July.

“There is enormous potential in collaborating with our allies and partners, and our AUKUS electromagnetic warfare (EW) challenge is an example of this,” said DIU Director Doug Beck in the statement. “A strong international community of defense innovation entities can help nurture and harness these new capabilities.”

While the prize challenge is associated with AUKUS’s second pillar, the first pillar — building and delivering nuclear-powered submarines to Australia — had a major boost forward last week when the British and Aussie defense ministers announced Canberra would contribute $4.6 billion AUD ($3 billion USD) to aid the United Kingdom in its research and development efforts.

RELATED: Australia sends $4.6B AUD to bolster UK sub industry for SSN AUKUS as shipbuilders named

Officials also announced that the British firm BAE Systems and the Australian sub builder ASC would be the two lead contractors building the boats projected to deliver in the late 2030s and early 2040s.

“This investment, alongside funding from the UK Ministry of Defence, will enable the Rolls-Royce Derby site to double in size, with a further 1,170 highly-skilled jobs created,” UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement put out ahead of a visit by him and Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles to the South Australian shipyard where the SSN AUKUS boats will be built.