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.

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