You go to war with what you have, not what you need.
That’s an old saying. But related things.
Questions are being asked as admirals, generals and politicians warn that a new Pacific War may be just three to five years away. Do you have what you need in Australia?
Last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to spend $ 270 billion over a decade to prepare for a “poorer and more dangerous” world.
This included an extensive shopping list of long-range anti-ship missiles, smart mine, and underwater surveillance networks. This is behind a costly (controversial) project to build 12 new submarines and 9 new frigate ships. After that, there are plans to develop its own hypersonic missile and Royal Wingman drone.
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Most of these will not be delivered until the 2030s and 2040s.
But given the reassessment of tensions over Taiwan, the East China Sea, the East China Sea and the Himalayas, ten years may be too late.
Maybe we have to use what we have.
Clear and present danger
Australia is throwing old war plans out the window. We are competing to prepare for the greatest threat we have faced since World War II.
This is a strategy to tackle more familiar challenges.
It’s a strategy to accept that the United States may not come to our aid.
Since the end of the Cold War, Canberra has been operating under the assumption that serious threats will be accompanied by at least a decade of warning.
In 2020, the Defense Strategy Update abandoned that expectation.
It has always been a dangerous estimate. History has already taught it. Britain only abandoned its 10-year plan of the 1930s within five years before the outbreak of the war with Germany in 1939.
When the Prime Minister announced his defense, he said, “Since the threat of existence faced when the world and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s, there is now a turmoil in global economic and strategic uncertainty in Australia. I’ve never seen him there. ” Updated in June last year.
“So we have to prepare and prepare to build a world where we live to the best of our ability, protect Australia, respond to protect Australia, and prepare to play our part. I can’t. “
“ADF now needs stronger deterrence,” Morrison told an audience of defense leaders in detailing the strategic shift.
“The ability to endanger potential enemy troops and critical infrastructure from a distance, which helps stop attacks on Australia and prevent war.”
It was a tacit understanding that Afghanistan and Timor were no longer templates for Australia’s defense structure.
Currently, the threat has been identified as China.
The mission may be to strengthen Taiwan.
As a result, a direct attack on Australia itself can occur.
“A large-scale war involving Australia will probably begin in the waters of Southeast Asia. The goal is to keep the enemy as far away from land as possible.” Peter Jennings, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says..
And Australia’s first concern is to secure important supplies.
“Energy imports alone require both the command of the sea needed to ensure the safe passage of oil and gas and the continued operation of national troops.” Former Admiral James Goldrick warns with an interpreter at the Lowi Institute.
“In the case of Australia, this includes aviation fuel in particular, but it is currently not refinable on land.”
“We are heading for a potential military crisis next year or two years around the first island chain adjacent to our approach to the People’s Republic of China,” Jennings warns.
However, attempts to save democratic Taiwan from the communist mainland of China face a difficult battle.
The US Navy is no longer the overwhelming force in the Pacific. The US Air Force is the shadow of its former aging. And we need an aerial and maritime advantage to protect vulnerable transportation that is in a hurry to strengthen our allies.
But I have friends in Washington. So are Tokyo, Manila, New Delhi and Canberra.
France, Germany, and now even Britain, are beginning to show a willingness to maintain the status quo in Southeast Asia.
Together, such allied forces could impose exorbitant costs on expansionist movements in the region. And it creates deterrence.
“China sees Australia’s defense alliance with the United States as a combination of envy and embarrassment,” says Jennings.
“The puzzle is how effectively countries can work together based on trust, strategic interests and shared values. China has no such relationship.”
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ADF has been trained as an integral part of US-led alliance operations for decades. Its ships, submarines and aircraft can be easily incorporated into telecommunications networks, supply chains and tactical roles. Jindalee’s over-the-horizon radar system can provide important intelligence. And Australia’s northern base is the starting point for troops operating throughout Southeast Asia.
Royal Australian Navy amphibious assault ships can participate in efforts to move military and tanks into combat zones. Its submarines and destroyers help protect them.
Australia’s 11 EA-18G “Groller” Super Hornets are likely to be in high demand. Designed to protect the Air Force, Navy, and Army with powerful radar and jamming suites, you’ll need them when you’re trying to push your army into a disputed territory.
If you can escape them.
Blitz Craig in Beijing?
The collapse of Taiwan will bring about a rapid strategic turnaround.
Its port and airfield, combined with a fortress on an artificial island in the South China Sea, will provide Beijing troops with wide access to the Western Pacific Ocean.
Major US bases in Okinawa and Japan will be directly threatened. Even Guam in the central Pacific will be exposed.
Such a war could soon put Australia on the defensive.
In particular, Darwin’s Tindall RAAF base and US Marine Corps facilities are being built as part of a unique western “island chain.”
“Geography remains the same. Southeast Asia is the strategic fulcrum where the Pacific War was fought and is the sharpest region in Beijing’s view,” says Jenning.
However, Australia’s defense can no longer rely on the “sea-sky gap” to the north of our country, as it has in the past.
The latest missiles such as the Chinese DF-26 and cruise missiles carried by bombers such as the H-6K can already reach many bases in the north. We are also building an aircraft carrier.
Intrusion is unlikely.
Japan abandoned this idea in 1942. It absorbs too many people, ships and aircraft.
However, China can choke Australia’s main routes, attack critical facilities, and prevent warships from passing through narrow island chokepoints to assist the Allies.
“Australia should not expect advance notice of an attack that will give us time to prepare our defense, just as Japanese military aircraft that struck Pearl Harbor and Manila brought war to the United States,” said Albert Palazzo of ASPI. Warns.
There are no RAAF airfields with enhanced shelters to protect the F-35, wedge tail radar aircraft, or the small fleet of F-18 Super Hornets. They are not very useful in the face of modern weapons. Missile defense is required.
According to US simulations, up to 70% of all Pacific fighters will be destroyed within the first few minutes of the conflict.
However, all ports, weapons dumps, barracks and marshalling yards are at the same risk.
“To get the opportunity to use new features before the ADF is destroyed by the enemy, we need to fix this negligence,” says Palazzo.
“Purchasing a feature is not enough. ADF also needs to protect it.”
Is it enough?
Can you get enough?
Can you save enough?
How long does it take for submarines, warships, tanks and aircraft to park due to lack of ammunition?
“Simply put, a few military platforms that don’t supply large quantities of advanced missiles are good for combat, but not for combat.” ASPI’s Marcus Helier says.
Canberra woke up to this fact. In March, the federal government announced that it would accelerate a project to manufacture some of these weapons in-house.
When Prime Minister Morrison invested $ 1 billion to launch a 10-year plan in March, “creating our own sovereignty on Australian lands is essential to keeping Australians safe. I declared.
“But we can’t wait until we have a perfect plan,” Hellyer said.
“The urgency of our strategic situation means we need to start now.”
A larger Australian short-term defense purchase was approved by a US government agency last week. This includes approximately 200 refurbished tanks, four readjusted Chinook heavy lift helicopters, and 12 MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones.
Chinooks taken from US Army inventory are given “customer-specific changes” prior to delivery. A set of eight spare engines is the heading for the associated spare package.
The SkyGuardian drone comes with a command unit, communication equipment, a training simulator and spares. It is intended to cover medium altitude and long time weapons. This includes air-to-ground missiles, laser-guided bombs, glide bombs, and air-to-air missiles.
Most notably, however, the Australian Army wants to upgrade its tank forces. The current M1A1SA “Abrams” tank is not considered until the Peer on Pier battle. I bought it because it is lightweight and convenient to carry. But that also means that they are not very well protected.
We are currently bidding to upgrade the 160 old US Abrams hull to the latest M1A2SEPv3 standard under what is known as the “Australia’s Heavy Armored Fighting System” package.
Canberra has already spent $ 1.4 billion to purchase 200 AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASM) launched from the F / A-18 Super Hornet, F-35, and P-8 patrol aircraft. ..
Last month, it announced $ 582 million to upgrade its weapons testing facilities in and around the Robertson Barracks in Darwin. That is to make the base more attractive to the US Marine Corps.
Royal Australian Air Force Base in Tindal has already upgraded and expanded $ 1.1 billion to operate US strategic bombers and tanker aircraft.
It’s all part of an effort to manage Australia’s open approach.
Races are also underway to develop unique long-range hypersonic weapons. BAE states that it “quickly tracked” the project and created a working demonstrator within a few years. However, it can take up to 10 years to reach operational services.
Meanwhile, speculation is circulating that Australia will acquire a Tomahawk cruise missile with a range of about 1500 km. Combined with mines, this allows ADF to challenge some of its narrower approaches to northern Australia.
“Australia cannot opt out of this reality,” Jennings said of the threatening environment. “Japan and Australia, the major allies of Washington and the Indo-Pacific, need to give the wider region confidence that they can generally oppose Beijing’s bullying.”
Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel