SA at the heart of radical defence strategy
LONG-range missiles and self-propelled howitzers will be added to the nation’s weapons arsenal in a $270 billion military upgrade as Australia prepares to flex its muscles in the Indo-Pacific more than ever before.
South Australia will likely get a wave of new shipyard jobs as part of the massive Defence step-up, which will also allow Australia to develop hypersonic weapons that can travel five times faster than sound.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today unveil the biggest shift in Australia’s defence strategy in four years, which will include 800 extra troops and transfer the military’s focus to the IndoPacific as China’s power grows.
Mr Morrison will send a thinly-veiled message to China that Australia will stand up for its values when he announces the shift.
“The simple truth is this – even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a postCOVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly,” Mr Morrison will say.
“There is a new dynamic of strategic competition and the largely benign security environment Australia has enjoyed, roughly from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the global financial crisis, is gone.”
As part of the plan, Australia will acquire AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles that can travel more than 370km.
Cyber warfare will also be a key plank of the strategy, which will include $15 billion to bolster Australia’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.
There will be a $75 billion upgrade of Australia’s naval fleet, which will include longrange maritime strike missiles, a bigger fleet and undersea surveillance.
Australia plans to upgrade or acquire 23 different types of naval and army vessels in total in a $183 billion plan, which could bolster SA’s already massive shipbuilding program that already includes nine Hunter Class Frigates and 12 Attack Class Submarines. A $65 billion injection for the air force will include up to $17 billion for fighter aircraft and research into hypersonic capabilities that Russia and China are already developing.
SA, which has positioned itself as the space state, could also benefit from a $7 billion push to upgrade Defence’s space capabilities, including satellite communications systems.
A further $55 billion will upgrade the army’s arsenal with new artillery systems, including two regiments of self-propelled howitzers.
There will also be $50 billion to upgrade Defence’s ICT and research and technology programs, with $10.2 billion for undersea warfare facilities and infrastructure.
Mr Morrison will say Australia must be ready as the Indo-Pacific becomes the “epicentre” of the world’s rising tensions, highlighting China’s “fractious” relationship with the US, a recent border dispute between India and China, and the contested South China Sea.
“The risk of miscalculation – and even conflict – is heightening,” he will say.
“Regional military modernisation is occurring at an unprecedented rate.
“Capabilities and reach are expanding. Previous assumpIN tions of enduring advantage and technological edge are no longer constants. Coercive activities are rife.”
Mr Morrison will also highlight the rising threat of disinformation and foreign interference, while saying terrorism remains a tenacious threat. In a thinly-veiled message to China, the Prime Minister will declare Australia will stand up for its values and push for greater co-operation from its allies in the region.
“We’re about the rule of law. We’re about being good neighbours, pulling our weight and lending a hand,” he will say. “We don’t seek to entangle or intimidate or silence our neighbours. We respect their sovereignty. And we expect others to respect ours.”
Australia would play its part in the changing environment, along with other key regional players Japan, India, South Korea, the countries of Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.