When the Australian Defence Force first dispatched its flotilla known as the “Indo-Pacific Endeavour”, the then Defence minister Christopher Pyne touted the regional drills as Australia’s “premier international engagement activity” designed to “enhance partnerships”. But what lies beneath this jargon?
When the People’s Liberation Army Navy flotilla berthed in Sydney in front of an adoring crowd of Chinese Australians, you can be sure that the timing and look of the event had been planned in every detail.
Right down to the professionally painted welcome signs, nothing is left to chance in the way the Chinese Communist Party commands the PLA Navy. The ships did not arrive off Sydney’s Heads by accident and the party would clearly get the diversionary value of making China’s biggest naval port call to Australia on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
This is an edited text of the Minister for Defence’s address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
It’s not by chance that my first domestic address as minister is before an expert audience grappling with the challenges that are rapidly redefining our strategic environment. Challenges that are engaging our sources of national power, in new and old ways. Challenges that are also impacting on the defence force Australia needs to have, now and into the future.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) today (June 2019) celebrated the completion of the final overseas deployment by an Adelaide Class guided missile frigate, with HMAS Newcastle arriving back in Australia, the Department of Defence has announced.
Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead AM, RAN, said the Adelaide Class frigates have been an indispensable part of Navy’s role in protecting Australia’s maritime interests for almost forty years.
New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark has released the Defence Capability Plan 2019, the first such document of the Ardern-led coalition government.
Following up from the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018, the Plan is designed to highlight the capabilities New Zealand will acquire over the next decade to address New Zealand’s strategic environment out to 2030, while identifying requirements and potential investments post 2030.
“The release of this Plan concludes a series of foundational reviews which align defence policy and planned investments with the Coalition Government’s priorities, including the Pacific Reset, and its commitment to safeguarding and providing resilience for the nation’s wellbeing,” the Minister says in the Plan’s forward.
In the Maritime domain, New Zealand plans to spend up to NZ$3bn (A$2.8bn) out to 2030.
This includes the immediate withdrawal of two of the RNZN’s four Lake class Inshore Patrol vessels,
An RFT in 2022 for an NZ$300-$600m project to acquire a new Southern Ocean Patrol vessel built to commercial specifications to patrol NZ’s southern exclusive economic zones from 2027,
An RFT in 2024 for at least NZ$1bn to replace the five SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite maritime helicopter fleet from 2027,
NZ$1bn to acquire two new Enhanced Sealift Vessels to initially supplement HMNZS Canterbury from 2029, and then replace that vessel from the early 2030s,
An enhanced service and maintenance package to allow the extension of the two ANZAC frigates expected service lives beyond 2030,
Beyond 2030, budget provision will be made to replace the RNZN’s two Protector class Offshore Patrol Vessels with an RFT due to be released in 2027, and the two ANZAC class frigates in the mid 2030s.
In the Land domain, the New Zealand Army will:
Introduce Tranche One of a new deployable C4ISR capability under the NZ$300-$600m Network Enabled Army (NEA) program,
The progressive rollout of follow-on tranches of NEA which will include expanded networks, improved ISR capabilities, and the integration of these with the Tranche One capabilities,
Release an RFT in 2021 to acquire a NZ$100-300m fleet of garrison and training vehicles from 2022,
New NZ$300-600m staged Protected Mobility Vehicle capability acquisition to replace Army’s Pinzgauer vehicles from 2023,
In 2025 an RFT will be released to replace the New Zealand Army’s GDLS NZLAV 8×8 armoured vehicles from 2033,
Funding will continue to be provided to bolster overall Army personnel numbers to 6,000 from 2035.
In the Air domain, New Zealand will acquire:
NZ$100-300m of Navigation and Communications systems upgrades from 2022,
At least five new Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules to replace the current C-130H capability from 2023,
An RFT in 2020 for the acquisition of unmanned, satellite or lower-tier fixed-wing maritime surveillance systems for civilian tasks from 2023 under the Enhanced Maritime Air Surveillance program to supplement the four P-8A Poseidons,
An RFT in 2026 for a replacement of the leased King Air 350-based aircrew training system with a platform to better prepare crews for the modern C-130J-30, P-8A, and 757 replacement,
An RFT in 2024 for a new Strategic Air Mobility transport capability to replace two Boeing 757-200s from 2028,
Post 2030, a new long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability to support land and maritime forces with improved and continuous ISR.
In the Information domain, the Plan outlines requirements for:
Enhanced cyber capability from 2021 to improve interoperability with close partners and keep pace with evolving threats, and to be able to generate effects, and to be able to exploit ISR data gleaned from new surveillance capabilities such as the P-8A Poseidon,
A Tactical remotely Piloted Aircraft from 2025,
A maritime satellite surveillance capability from 2025,
A high frequency (HF) radio network requirement from 2026,
Post 2030, a wideband global satellite communications capability.
Earlier this year I wrote for Australian Defence Magazine suggesting that there was opportunity to include the BAE Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) in the mix for the USN’s FFG(X) program.
In response to that article, a number of colleagues and readers not unreasonably suggested that GCS was far too much at odds with the scope and intent of the FFG(X) requirements which had clearly set its sights on a cheaper ‘parent-design’ option to sit neatly alongside its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fleet as part of the USN’s future small surface combatant (SSC) force.
A naval officer from Hobart in a miniature submarine played one of the most significant roles in the historic D-Day landing 75 years ago, the Submarine Institute writes in tribute this week (June 2019).
As Korea, Japan, China and India continue to invest in aircraft carriers to enhance their maritime security and power projection capabilities – the question remains, should Australia reintroduce a fixed-wing naval aviation capability and what options are available should the nation choose to participate in the regional carrier race?
The Australian Naval Institute announced the winner of the 2019 McNeil Prize at its Annual Dinner in Canberra on June 5. The recipient of the 2019 McNeil Prize was Mr Peter Jenkins, who is founder and Managing Director of Jenkins Engineering Defence Systems in Sydney. The Prize is awarded to an individual from Australian industry who has made an outstanding contribution to the capabilities of the Royal Australian Navy. It was awarded to Mr Jenkins by the Acting Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond in the presence of members of the McNeil family and Mr Scott Thompson, Interim CEO of Lockheed Martin Australia who co-sponsor the Prize with the ANI. The McNeil Prize is named in memory of Rear Admiral Percival McNeil who was one of the driving forces behind Australian shipbuilding during World War II.