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31 May 19. Push it to the limit – The next steps in developing Australia’s defence industry. Australia’s defence industry has gone from strength to strength in a short period of time – however, global competition and world-leading capabilities requires a shift in gear to support continued growth and competitiveness for Australian manufacturers, but what does this look like? A core component of the Australian government’s $200bn investment, recapitalisation and modernisation of the nation’s defence capability is the focus on developing a truly sovereign, sustainable and competitive domestic defence industry capability.
The introduction of the Defence Industrial Capability Plan in 2018 outlines the government’s long-term vision to “build and develop a robust, resilient and internationally competitive Australian defence industry base that is better able to help meet defence capability requirements” in recognition of the rapidly evolving geo-strategic environment and Australia’s changing role in the region.
The plan acknowledges that as Australia builds its defence capability, we must also grow our defence industrial capability. By 2028, Australia will require a larger, more capable and prepared defence industry that has the resident skills, expertise, technology, intellectual property and infrastructure to:
- Enable the conduct of ADF operations today;
- Support the acquisition, operation and sustainment of future defence capability; and
- Provide the national support base for Defence to meet current needs and to surge if Australia’s strategic circumstances require it.
Australia’s industry participation as a critical part of the global supply chain for major global defence projects like the US$1trn F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, combined with now global programs like the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail AEWC program, Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle and the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship (to be Hunter Class in Australian service), are potent examples of Australia’s industrial capability.
However, as with the changing currents of the Indo-Pacific’s geo-political and strategic order, Australia’s defence industry capabilities require a renewed policy agenda to support the next-stage of defence industry capability development. But what does this look like?
Global collaboration and the supply chain
Australia’s participation as a critical component in the global supply chain for key defence programs has long been recognised, with Australia’s defence SMEs leading the charge and punching wildly above their comparative weight, including highly successful examples like Quickstep Holdings, Marand Precision Engineering, Varley Group, TAE Aerospace and Bisalloy Steel each showing Australia can be a true global competitor.
While these capabilities are impressive, growth has to be a critical focus – particularly as other global competitors’ market shares in projects like the F-35 program continue to evolve and in some cases decline. Australian industry requires significant support from organisations like Team Defence Australia and the Australian Defence Export Office (ADEO), which have established themselves as powerful allies for developing Australia’s defence industry capability.
As these organisations continue to spruik the capabilities of Australia’s defence industry capability in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America, the question remains – what more can these organisations do to support the development and market exposure of Australia’s rapidly growing defence SMEs?
Reciprocal allied manufacturing?
The growing complexity and commonality of major defence acquisition programs between a number of allied nations – particularly five eye nations like the US, Australia, Canada and the UK – provides avenues for diplomatic and economic partnerships to support increased industry capability, strategic dispersal and interoperability.
In particular, the closure of both Japan and Italy’s F-35 facilities combined with the acquisition of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship by the British, Canadian and Australian Navies, and the potential acquisition of a variant of the Australian Hobart Class variant by the US Navy as part of the FFG[X] program, provide avenues for Australia and its core allies to spread the cost and industrial burden of these increasingly complex programs.
Additionally, by diversifying the build program, leveraging the unique industrial strengths and capabilities of each nation due to an increased economy of scale should serve to decrease overall unit acquisition price, potentially increasing the avenues for additional platform acquisition at a time when each of the respective nations will be required to do more in order to maintain the international order.
Tax exemptions and creating a National Strategic Industry Act?
Supporting the development of Australia’s defence industry also requires the legislative power of government to counter-balance industry development policies of allied, yet still competitor nations like South Korea – which leverages the industrial development policies of export oriented industrialisation (EOI) to develop its economy into a major economic and modern, advanced manufacturing powerhouse.
This is done through a range of government-driven incentives for industry, including corporate tax incentives, employment incentives and payroll tax incentives. Australia’s now firm commitment to developing a robust domestic defence capability requires innovative and adaptive thinking in order to expand the capabilities and competitiveness of the domestic industry.
Elements of Australia’s innovation and science agenda combined with grant allocation and targeted, contractual tax incentives (signed between the Commonwealth and the company as a memorandum of understanding) linked to a combination of long-term, local job creation, foreign contract success, local industry content, and research and development programs, are critical components that can be used to empower and enhance the overall competitiveness.
Finally, as part of developing a broader National Security Strategy, the introduction of a National Strategic Industry Act that designates and through the machinery of public policy supports and sustains the development and competitiveness of industries deemed ‘critical to national security’ to avoid the failures of the past, which has resulted in costly project delays, price increases and capability gaps.
Developing and implementing a cohesive, innovative and long-term vision for Australia’s sovereign defence industry capability can also serve as the basis for developing and in some cases redeveloping a robust, advanced manufacturing economy taking advantage of Australia’s unrivalled resource wealth – supporting the broader national security and interests in the Indo-Pacific. (Source: Defence Connect)
31 May 19. New Australian Defence Industry Minister announces renewed focus. Recently appointed Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has welcomed her appointment to the new position with a focus on supporting the development of Australia’s defence industry, SMEs and future workforce.
Minister Price has an extensive professional career including working for leading Australian law firm Clayton Utz. Minister Price also has more than 20 years’ experience in the private sector, working in the mining and grain industry in a variety of commercial and legal roles, including iron ore company Crosslands Resources, which is owned by Mitsubishi Corporation.
In her statement following her formal appointment, Minister Price said, “My focus is to ensure Australia’s defence industry is fully supported to meet the needs and aspirations of the Navy, Army and Air Force, while creating employment for Australians and strengthening our economy through defence exports.”
The appointment signals a reorientation of Australia’s defence capabilities. Based in Western Australia, Minister Price and new Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will no doubt endeavour to emphasis the importance of both WA and the Indian Ocean on Australia’s defence policy and future industry development.
“As a federal member whose electorate spans most of regional and remote Western Australia, I understand that expanding our sovereign Defence industry will involve a broad landscape of industry and educational needs. To support the companies contracted directly by Defence we need to ensure the right STEM skills pathways for our youth and provide opportunities for the workforce behind our Defence Forces,” Minister Price said.
“This includes tens of thousands of small and medium enterprises – often located across regional Australia – who protect our Australian service men and women through the provision of equipment and services and the maintenance of comprehensive supply chains.”
The election of the Coalition in 2013 saw a major shake-up in the way defence was approached by government. Following what the Coalition describes as six years of neglect under the tumultuous Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments, the newly formed government sought to create an environment of stability and consistency for Defence with a number of key policy objectives.
Central to this was the commitment to return Australia’s defence expenditure to 2 per cent of GDP following what both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and now former minister for defence Christopher Pyne explained as a 10 per cent reduction in real terms in the last year (FY2012-13) of the previous government –resulting in defence investment falling to its lowest levels since 1938.
Minister Price recognised the efforts of her predecessors and the efforts of the Coalition since coming to office in 2013, saying, “I look forward to working with the Department of Defence, defence industry and all defence stakeholders to ensure the continued success of the government’s defence industry agenda. I also thank Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSM, the Hon Christopher Pyne and the Hon Steven Ciobo, for their tireless work in transforming Australia’s defence industry.
“The Coalition has a proud record of meeting Australia’s international environment commitments, of unprecedented investment in clean energy technology and in ensuring robust assessment processes that balance strong environmental protection with the needs of Australia’s economy.”
Minister Price was elected to Parliament in 2013 and joined the joint standing committee on agriculture and industry, Indigenous affairs, and infrastructure and communications, and the joint select committee on northern Australia, to represent the electorate of Durack on a range of important issues.
Prior to stepping into the defence industry portfolio, Minister Price was elevated to her first outer ministerial appointment in the role of assistant minister for the environment. In 2018, Minister Price was sworn in as minister for the environment in the Morrison government. (Source: Defence Connect)
30 May 19. US-UAE defence agreement comes into force. The US and the United Arab Emirates announced on 29 May that a mutual defence cooperation agreement had come into force, amid increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran. ‘The DCA (Defense Cooperation Agreement) will enhance military coordination between the US and the United Arab Emirates, further advancing an already robust military, political, and economic partnership at a critical time,’ a joint statement said. ‘The US and the United Arab Emirates share a deep interest in promoting prosperity and stability in the region. The DCA will advance that interest by fostering closer collaboration on defence and security matters and supporting efforts by both nations to maintain security in the Gulf region.’
US national security advisor John Bolton was in Abu Dhabi on 29 May, meeting his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Bolton said Iran was almost certainly behind recent oil tanker attacks that sent Gulf tensions soaring. Riyadh’s regional rival Tehran dismissed the accusation as ‘laughable’.
This came on the eve of emergency Arab and Gulf summits called by Saudi Arabia to discuss the stand-off and ways to isolate Tehran.
Two Saudi oil tankers, among four vessels, were the targets of mysterious acts of sabotage off the UAE this month, and Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels have stepped up drone attacks on the kingdom – one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.
Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of being the mastermind behind the Yemeni rebels’ attack on the pipeline, while an investigation has been launched into the attacks on ships off the UAE.
On 24 May, US President Donald Trump bypassed Congress to sell $8.1bn in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, citing the alleged threat from Iran. (Source: Shephard)
29 May 19. Boeing surprised Canada changed rules of jet competition to allow Lockheed Martin bid. Boeing Co is surprised Canada softened the rules of a competition for new fighters to allow Lockheed Martin Corp to submit a bid, but is still confident it has a chance, a top executive said on Wednesday.
Following a U.S. complaint, Ottawa this month said it planned to drop a clause stipulating that bidders in the multibillion dollar race to supply 88 jets must offer a legally binding guarantee to give Canadian businesses 100% of the value of the deal in economic benefits.
The original clause would have excluded Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter, the plane the Canadian air force wants. The contract is worth between C$15bn and C$19bn ($11.1bn to $14.1bn).
“I was surprised by the recommended change … why would you deviate from a policy that’s been so successful to accommodate a competitor?” said Jim Barnes, the Boeing official in charge of trying to sell the company’s F-18 Super Hornet jet to Canada.
The change in the rules around economic benefits was the latest wrinkle in a decade-long troubled-plagued effort to replace Canada’s CF-18 jets, some of which are 40 years old. The final list of requirements for the new fleet of jets is due to be issued in July.
“Right now we feel like we can put a very compelling offer on the table even with this change,” Barnes told reporters on the margins of a defense and security conference in Ottawa.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains – in overall charge of the benefits aspect of procurement – said in response to Barnes’s comment that Ottawa would ensure the competition was fair.
Compelling bidders to offer watertight guarantees of economic benefits contradicts rules of the consortium that developed the F-35, a group to which Canada belongs.
Boeing is offering a binding commitment and Barnes said the firm would stress to Canadian officials the potential economic disadvantages of entertaining a non-binding bid. An official from Sweden’s Saab AB, another contender, told reporters that Canadians could lose out by ignoring contenders that had made firm investment commitments.
“I am concerned that the ability to respond to a non-binding environment may not necessarily give Canadians the best value at the end of the day,” said Patrick Palmer, head of sales and marketing for Saab Canada. Airbus SE, the fourth firm in the race, declined to comment. (Source: Reuters)
29 May 19. In Asia, Pentagon seeks to separate China military talks from trade war. Acting U.S. Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Wednesday that tense trade negotiations between China and the United States should be treated separately from military talks between the two countries.
Tensions between China and the United States have intensified in the past year over an ongoing trade war, the disputed South China Sea and U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
In a week-long trip that will take Shanahan to a number of Asian countries, his talks are likely to be dominated by China, with questions from allies about increasing tensions with Iran and stalled talks with North Korea.
“The trade runs a separate track and we’ll solve that, it is too important not to solve,” Shanahan told reporters en route to Jakarta, Indonesia.
“I don’t believe they’ll spill over into our dialogue and discussion on defence,” he added.
Talks to end the trade dispute collapsed earlier this month, with the two sides in a stalemate over U.S. demands that China change its policies to address a number of key U.S. grievances.
Shanahan, who will give a major policy speech in Singapore, will meet his Chinese counterpart later this week.
He said the goal for his meeting with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe was to find areas of cooperation while being transparent and candid about areas where they may not agree.
NORTH KOREA MISSILE TESTS
During a recent trip to Japan, President Donald Trump expressed optimism over prospects that North Korea would give up its nuclear programme, and repeated that he was not bothered by recent missile tests, which he indicated he did not believe flouted United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Shanahan appeared to agree with National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying that the recent short-range North Korean missile tests did violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“These were short-range missiles and those are a violation of the (U.N. Security Council resolutions),” Shanahan said.
North Korea will be a major topic of talks when Shanahan heads to South Korea and Japan next week.
During his trip, Shanahan will also likely be asked by nervous Asian allies about the United States’ commitment to the region amid growing tensions with Iran.
Last week the Pentagon announced the deployment of 900 additional troops to the Middle East and extended the deployment of another 600 service members in the region, describing it as an effort to bolster defences against Iran.
Those deployments are small compared with the nearly 70,000 American troops stationed across the Middle East and Afghanistan and are not enough to tilt the Pentagon’s focus away from Asia. But a period of protracted tensions could set it back.
Shanahan said the additional troops would be going to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Without giving details or evidence, he said that while Iran’s posture had changed recently, the threat remained.
Shanahan added that sending military assets into the region, like deploying bombers, Patriot missiles and accelerating the movement of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East, had helped deter attacks against Americans in Iraq. (Source: Reuters)
28 May 19. As Shanahan heads to Asia, Iran tensions threaten Pentagon’s ‘great power’ focus. As acting U.S. Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan heads to Asia on Tuesday to deliver a major policy speech on the region, increasing tensions with Iran threaten to upend the Pentagon’s strategy to focus on “great power competition” and countering Russia and China, officials and experts say.
In January 2018, the U.S. military put China and Russia at the centre of a new national defence strategy, shifting priorities after more than a decade and a half of focussing on the fight against Islamist militants.
On his first day as acting defence secretary in January, Shanahan told civilian leaders of the U.S. military to focus on “China, China, China.”
But escalating tension with Iran over the past month could impair that focus. The U.S. military has cited what it sees as a threat of potential attack by Iran to deploy hundreds of troops to the region, in addition to Patriot missiles, bombers and the accelerated movement of a carrier strike group.
The United States on Friday announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defences against Iran as it accused the country’s Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks off the United Arab Emirates.
Those deployments are small compared with the nearly 70,000 American troops stationed across the Middle East and Afghanistan and are not enough to change the Pentagon strategy. But a period of protracted tensions could set it back.
“The greatest way to kill the National Defence Strategy and its focus on long-term competition and preparing for the possibility of conflict with China and Russia is to start another war in the Middle East,” said Mara Karlin, a former Pentagon official now with the Brookings Institution.
Karlin said it was not just conflict with Iran that would distract the Pentagon from its own strategy, but that planning itself can consume resources.
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Pentagon leadership was spending time discussing the question of what a large-scale conflict with Iran could mean for the focus on China and Russia.
The official said the hope was that the deterrence measures being used by the Pentagon – sending aircraft and ships to the region – would be enough to stave off a major conflict with Iran.
U.S. allies in Asia, as well as China, are highly sensitive to the degree of American focus on their region, said Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia.
“They watch very closely our rhetoric, investments, our deployments towards any area outside of Asia, looking and raising questions about the sustainability of American commitment to Asia,” said Denmark, currently with the Woodrow Wilson Centre think-tank.
CHINA, CHINA, CHINA?
At the annual Shangri-La defence forum in Singapore later this week , Shanahan is expected to lay out his vision for the Asia-Pacific, with a particular focus on China, and what specifically the Pentagon is doing to implement its National Defence Strategy in the region.
The closely watched speech will come at a time of tense relations between China and the United States, which are locked in a series of disputes, most notably a large-scale trade war and a jostling for military influence in the region.
In just the past month, the United States has carried out two operations in the South China Sea and a transit through the strategic Taiwan Strait, moves that have angered China.
A senior U.S. defence official said Shanahan’s speech in Singapore would emphasise continuity in the American commitment to the region.
“There’s a lot of things that as a global power we have to be able to attend to. But this trip is about kind of showing and underscoring how our commitment (to Asia) is playing out,” the official said.
In his first trip to the region as acting defence secretary, Shanahan will also visit Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The former Boeing Co. executive, whom President Donald Trump intends to nominate formally for defence secretary, is expected to meet his Chinese counterpart in Singapore.
The Pentagon will also release a new report on U.S. military strategy for the region that will highlight areas where the United States is making investments and alliances in the region, the official said.
“China can change the world… we can’t afford to lose in Asia. Asia is the crown jewel,” said Elbridge Colby, who led the Pentagon’s development of the National Defence Strategy.
“So we have to stay in the Middle East, but you’ve got to turn down the temperature and the demand signal,” said Colby, currently with the Centre for a New American Security. (Source: Reuters)
30 May 19. What constitutes an Australian national security strategy? National security has traditionally focused on traditionally ‘hard power’ concepts of conventional economic and military power, espionage and intelligence gathering – however, in an increasingly challenging global environment, does a true national security strategy require a more holistic response?
National security in the contemporary context is best defined by US academic Charles Maier: “National security … is best described as a capacity to control those domestic and foreign conditions that the public opinion of a given community believes necessary to enjoy its own self-determination or autonomy, prosperity and well being.”
Recognising the traditional ‘hard power’ elements of national security policy and strategy, which is the key responsibility of any government – namely elements of political, economic and military power – Australia has long enjoyed a period of relative stability and consistency that has empowered the nation, but also engendered a sense of complacency.
Australia has long had a tough relationship with the ‘tyranny of distance’. On one hand, the nation’s populace has treated it with disdain and hostility, while Australia’s political and strategic leaders have recognised the importance of geographic isolation.
The rise of Indo-Pacific Asia means the ‘tyranny of distance’ has been replaced by a ‘predicament of proximity’. China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and several other regional nations are reshaping the economic and strategic paradigms with an unprecedented period of economic, political and arms build-up, competing interests and rising animosity towards the post-World War II order Australia is a pivotal part of in the region.
This rapidly evolving global environment, combined with the increasing instability of the US administration and its apparent apprehension to intervene or at least maintain the global rules-based order following the radical shift in US politics, also forces Australia to reassess the strategic calculus – embracing a radically new approach to national security strategy and policy.
Changing with the times
With the rapidly evolving geo-political, economic and strategic realities of the contemporary international political environment, Australia’s approach to developing a cohesive, holistic national security strategy requires updating. This is echoed by NSW senator and former Army Major General Jim Molan, who explained to Defence Connect, “Australia has had one previous attempt at putting a national security strategy in place under the Gillard government in 2013. Although it was a decent first attempt, it is has already been overtaken by events. Terrorism was the principal security challenge it focused on, and although the threat of terrorism has not disappeared, other changes in the world are demanding our focus.
“The world has changed dramatically in the six years since the release of the last national security strategy. Of primary concern is the decline of American power. At the end of the Cold War, the US planned for the contingency of fighting, and winning, ‘two and a half wars’ simultaneously. This meant it could wage two large scale regional wars and a small scale conflict elsewhere and prevail in all of them.”
By its very nature, national security strategy and policy is an all encompassing area of public policy – indeed every facet of contemporary public policy is crucial to supporting the broader national security debate. From seemingly banal aspects of social security and health policy, through to infrastructure development, water security and agriculture policy, each element of public policy is intimately enmeshed as part of the broader national security conversation.
Recognising this critical factor – how does Australia respond to the rapidly evolving regional environment and develop a holistic national security strategy?
Industry development, water security, infrastructure and strategic reserves?
Australia’s position and responsibilities in the Indo-Pacific region will depend on the nation’s ability to sustain itself economically, strategically and politically. Despite the nation’s virtually unrivalled wealth of natural resources, agricultural and industrial potential, there is a lack of a cohesive national security strategy integrating the development of individual, yet complementary public policy strategies to support a more robust Australian role in the region.
Contemporary Australia has been far removed from the harsh realities of conflict, with many generations never enduring the reality of rationing for food, energy, medical supplies or luxury goods, and even fewer within modern Australia understanding the socio-political and economic impact such rationing would have on the now world-leading Australian standard of living.
Accordingly, it is now up to Australia’s political and strategic leaders to form an integrated policy agenda as part of a broader National Security Strategy – similar to that advocated for by Senator Molan – to include the development of globally competitive strategic industries, world-leading, nationally significant infrastructure and economic insulating strategic reserves.
Senator Molan stressed the importance of these developments, telling Defence Connect, “We have managed to get away with not having a national security strategy only because we have lived in a tranquil region since 1945. But our strategic environment is changing quickly, and we need to prepare for a turbulent future. Developing a national security strategy would be a vital first step towards building the capacity we need to face the potential challenges that are coming.” (Source: Defence Connect)
30 May 19. Australian Army recapitalisation and is the Army big enough? The Australian Army is undergoing a period of unprecedented modernisation and expansion – however, as the Army is required to respond to an increasing number of potential contingencies in defence of the national interest, is the Army large enough to reliably execute the mission in a radically evolving geo-political and strategic order?
Modern warfare has rapidly evolved over the last three decades, from high-tempo, manoeuvre-based operations that leveraged the combined capabilities of air, sea, land and space forces to direct troops, equipment and firepower around the battlefield during the first Gulf War, to low intensity, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in southern Europe and the south Pacific, and the eventual rise of asymmetrical, guerilla conflicts in the mountains of Afghanistan and streets of Iraq.
However, the growing conventional and hybrid capabilities of peer and near-peer competitors – namely Russia and China – combined with the growing modernisation, capability enhancements and reorganisation of force structures in the Army’s of nations including India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand all contribute to the changing nature of contemporary land warfare.
Additionally, Australia’s strategic reorientation to focus on the Indo-Pacific region makes a great deal of sense, particularly given the positioning of key regional economic and strategic partners across what has been referred to as the ‘Arc of Instability’ characterised by narrow archipelagos, swathes of jungle and advanced anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) systems like those introduced in the South China Sea.
Despite the introduction of Plan Beersheba in 2011, the introduction of ‘Accelerated Warfare’ and the shift towards developing a truly ‘combined arms’ force capable of leveraging Australia’s traditional advantages in high-tech platforms, world-class infantry and ‘espirit de corps’ serves as the nation’s first attempt to modernise and recapitalise the Army to face the fluid tactical and strategic challenges of the 21st century battlefield.
The question remains, given the geographic area of responsibility Australia will become increasingly responsible for and dependent on, is the Australian Army and the existing recapitalisation and modernisation programs currently underway enough for Australia to maintain its qualitative and quantitative lead over regional peers?
Key piece of the jigsaw puzzle – Army’s role in power projection
The introduction of ‘Accelerated Warfare’ builds on the reorganisation and modernisation efforts outlined in Plan Beersheba, which sought to establish the Australian Army as an integrated, combined arms force, which Major General Gus McLachlan, retired Commander Forces Command, described: “In Plan Beersheba we have the spine, the backbone of our 21st century, combined arms force, but it isn’t the future. That is where Accelerated Warfare comes into play, it aims to make Army an adaptable and capable force.”
This focus on the capability, particularly the expeditionary capability of Army, is supported by Dr Malcolm Davis of ASPI, who told Defence Connect, “I feel that the ADF needs responsive and effective power projection, air and naval, and boosting Army’s strategic mobility and amphibious capability.
“It is better to build our force structure to project power forward, deep into maritime south-east Asia and beyond, and also have forward military presence in the Indian Ocean and the south Pacific.”
Recognising this, what does the future Army look like? How large is it, how is it organised and what capabilities does it need to maintain its qualitative edge over potential adversaries?
Force structure concepts and an increase in size
Defence Connect has introduced a number of force structure concepts, recognising the need for both amphibious expeditionary forces and conventional ‘heavy’ ground forces, namely concepts such as:
Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) and Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF): The US Marine Corps and its globally deployed MEUs and MAGTFs provide the US with an unrivalled, rapid response to contingencies ranging from humanitarian disaster relief and counter-insurgency to sea control and high-intensity power projection combat operations against a peer competitor.
Both the MEU and MAGTF concepts utilise US Navy LHDs and landing platform docks (LPD) supported by surface combatants to rapidly deploy integrated, ‘combined arms’ forces, including amphibious landing, infantry, artillery, armour, combat engineers, both rotary and fixed-wing air support (both lift and attack), logistics, medical and supply chain services.
Brigade Combat Team (BCT): Complementing the capabilities of Australia’s amphibious force is the introduction of a larger, heavier Army organisation akin to the US Army BCT – which can be highly specialised and consist of one combat arms branch manoeuvre brigade, support and fire units. They are typically made up of about 4,500 soldiers, with specialised infantry, mechanised infantry and light armoured reconnaissance, armoured units, divisional artillery, air, medical, logistics and command support.
The specialised focus of BCTs provides a diverse, QRF capable of meeting any number of contingencies, without limiting the overall combat strength of the Army, by deploying a proportional, tailored, brigade size ‘combined arms’ force to global hotspots, within 96 hours, as opposed to a division-sized force at 120 hours.
BCTs serve as the basis of the US forward-deployed conventional, ground-based, power projection and deterrence forces in continental Europe, with a series of modernisation programs to enhance the combat lethality and deployability of key platforms to combat continued Russian aggression in eastern Europe.
As Australia’s role in Indo-Pacific Asia and the strategic balance of power continues to evolve, the Australian Army will be called upon to fulfil a range of roles beyond those it has conducted over the past 50 years. Power projection and the application of ‘hard power’ in both a high and low intensity capacity will dramatically reshape the Australian Army despite an unprecedented level of investment.
Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on the future of Australia’s ground-based power projection forces and the broader direction of the Australian Army’s modernisation and restructuring, as outlined in the ‘Accelerated Warfare’ doctrine, in the comments section below, or get in touch with or . (Source: Defence Connect)
28 May 19. U.S. says all North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction violate U.N. resolutions. North Korea’s entire weapons of mass destruction programme violates U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday, when asked about recent missile launches by Pyongyang.
“I think the entire North Korean WMD programme, it’s in conflict with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. But what the U.S. is focussed on here … is in trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the North Korean WMD programme,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.
Ortagus had been asked to make clear the State Department’s position after President Donald Trump appeared to contradict his national security adviser, John Bolton, over whether North Korean launches this month had violated U.N. resolutions.
Bolton said on Saturday there was “no doubt” that the launches had violated U.N. resolutions as they had included short-range ballistic missiles.
Ortagus said the State Department had yet to share publicly its assessment of whether the launches had involved ballistic missiles. However, the Pentagon said on May 9 that launches by North Korea that day consisted of multiple ballistic missiles that flew in excess of 300 km (185 miles). During a visit to Japan on Monday, Trump alluded to Bolton’s views and said he disagreed.
“My people think it could have been a violation … I view it differently,” Trump said, adding that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had perhaps wanted “to get attention.”
Trump stressed that there had been “no nuclear tests, no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out” and added that one day there could be a deal with North Korea to end its nuclear programme.
Asked whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed with Trump or Bolton, Ortagus said: “I don’t think it was lost on any of us that the launches were an attempt to send a message to the administration.”
She added that the United States wanted denuclearisation talks with North Korea to continue. “That’s our focus here,” she said.
After two failed summits between Kim and Trump in the past year, North Korea test fired several rockets and missiles this month, including several guided missiles that experts said could be used to penetrate South Korean and U.S. defences in the region.
The missiles flew on a flattened, lower-altitude trajectory, leading some officials in South Korea to question whether they should be categorized as “ballistic missiles” and therefore a violation of U.N. resolutions.
North Korea in a statement on Monday denounced Bolton as “more than ignorant” and said giving up missile tests would mean giving up the right to self-defence and that “whatever is launched is bound to fly drawing a ballistic trajectory.” (Source: Reuters)
28 May 19. France deploys aircraft carrier to region in show of commitment to area’s security: French ambassador. The deployment of France’s only aircraft carrier group to the region, as part of a five-month mission, demonstrates its commitment to regional security, French Ambassador to Singapore Marc Abensour said on Tuesday (May 28).
“The fact that France is also a security provider in the region, and that is well-illustrated through our shared commitment to freedom of navigation and of overflight,” he added. He also said the shared commitment was the reason the aircraft carrier group will carry out exercises with the Singapore navy and air force, scheduled for next week, to enhance the way the two countries’ armed forces work together.
The ambassador was speaking to reporters on board the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle at RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base.
Its deployment, codenamed Mission Clemenceau, will cover areas including the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean from March to July as part of the carrier strike group named Task Force 473.
The group includes three frigates, one supply ship, one nuclear submarine, as well as helicopters and Rafale fighter jets.
Asked if the French navy will conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, Commander of Task Force 473, Rear-Admiral Olivier Lebas, said conducting such operations was not an objective.
“It’s just the way we have to operate and to meet our partners everywhere in the world (by using freedom of navigation). We are neighbouring this region and so it’s important to meet our partners regularly here,” he added.
Tensions have flared in the disputed South China Sea over the US freedom of navigation operations and China’s territorial claims.
The Charles De Gaulle arrived in Singapore on Tuesday, and will stay for the annual Asia defence forum Shangri-La Dialogue from Friday to Sunday.
The ship, manned by about 1,950 sailors, was last in Singapore in 2002.
Describing the defence ties between France and Singapore as having achieved a high level of mutual trust, Mr Abensour said that it was a pillar of the strategic relationship between the two countries that started in 2013.
He also said that other than celebrating the role former French prime minister Georges Clemenceau played in World War I, the name of the mission also has links to Singapore.
“Clemenceau visited Singapore almost a century ago in 1920. And he was invited to give his name to Singapore. And so this is why you have this name here,” he said. (Source: News Now/www.straitstimes.com)
29 May 19. Enhancing the capability of the ADF – Opening the conversation about future key enablers. Key enablers form a central component of building and supporting the capabilities of the ADF – as potential adversaries continue to invest in similar systems, infrastructure and capability enhancements, Australia’s adoption and investment in critical platforms, personnel and infrastructure is essential to ensuring continued technological supremacy.
Following the release of the 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP) and the supporting Integrated Investment Plan – which was designed to guide the unprecedented period of modernisation, recapitalisation investment for the future force – key enablers were recognised by the government as essential to ensuring that the next-generation platforms and capabilities would transform the ADF into an integrated, ‘joint force’ of the 21st century.
Enabling these capabilities includes an investment in personnel, critical infrastructure – such as bases, training ranges, wharves and airfields – information and communications technology, logistics, science and technology, and health services as well as force design, strategic and international policy functions.
These enablers include reliable access to essential facilities such as military bases, wharves, port facilities, airbases, training ranges and fuel and explosive ordnance infrastructure, and underpins the Australian Defence Force’s ability to conduct and sustain operations in Australia and into the region. The government’s plan will implement a range of Defence infrastructure initiatives over the next decade to support future ADF operations, including:
- Royal Australian Air Force Bases: Williamtown, NSW; Edinburgh, South Australia; Tindal and Darwin, Northern Territory; Curtin, Learmonth, and Pearce, Western Australia; and Townsville and Scherger, Queensland – are set to be modernised, while new facilities at RAAF bases Tindal and Edinburgh will support the introduction of the MQ‐4C Triton and the airfield at Cocos Islands will be upgraded to support the new P‐8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and response aircraft.
- Royal Australian Navy Bases: HMAS Stirling and Fleet Base East (Garden Island) in NSW will be upgraded as part of the significant regeneration of the Royal Australian Navy. Garden Island will be upgraded to enable it to continue to support an expanded fleet and accommodate larger platforms such as the Canberra Class amphibious ships and Hobart Class air warfare destroyers, while HMAS Coonawarra in the NT will also be upgraded in the short to medium term to enhance its operational effectiveness.
- ISR and space-based infrastructure: Space situational awareness will be enhanced through upgrades at Harold E. Holt Communications Facility, Exmouth, WA. Meanwhile, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network facilities in northern Australia and the communications facility at HMAS Harman in the ACT will be upgraded.
- Australian Army Bases: Army bases such as Lavarack Barracks, Queensland; Holsworthy Barracks in NSW; Campbell Barracks in WA; and Robertson and Larrakeyah Barracks in the NT will be upgraded to support Army capability and operations.
- Joint Training Areas: Including the Shoalwater Bay amphibious training area, NT; Cultana Training Area, SA; Yampi Sound Training Area, WA; and Puckapunyal Military Area, Victoria will be upgraded to support ADF capability requirements and increased training with international partners.
- Weapons Testing and Training ranges: Woomera training and testing range in SA will be upgraded to meet increasing ADF demands and greater co-operation with the US and other security partners.
Each of these individual investments, which are expected to account for about 25 per cent of Defence capital expenditure to 2025-26, serve as key capability development and enhancers. The government has also committed to an additional $5bn in funding to support the modernisation of Defence’s information and communications technology architecture that supports warfighting, security and communications.
This includes priorities, such as:
- Enhancing support to operations;
- Stabilising Defence’s information and communications technology core; and
- Delivering a rationalised, secure, contemporary information and communications technology environment –focused on delivering improved connectivity with allies and partners, supporting more effective coalition operations.
Building on this, simulators, including an enhanced enterprise simulation capability, training platforms, training ranges and testing facilities, will also be upgraded to support the new and larger fleets of platforms and new weapons systems being acquired as part of the government’s capability plans, while including a focus on supporting increased health services to support broader ADF deployments, training and exercises.
The nation is defined by its relationship with the region, with access to the growing economies and to strategic sea-lines-of-communication supporting over 90 per cent of global trade, a result of the cost effective and reliable nature of sea transport. Indo-Pacific Asia is at the epicentre of the global maritime trade, with about US$5trn worth of trade flowing through the South China Sea and the strategic waterways and choke points of south-east Asia annually.
Traditionally, Australia has focused on a platform-for-platform acquisition program – focused on replacing, modernising or upgrading key capabilities on a like-for-like basis without a guiding policy, doctrine or strategy, limiting the overall effectiveness, survivability and capability of the ADF – however this focus on typically ‘pointy’ capabilities neglects the supporting infrastructure, capabilities and technological developments needed to support an integrated ‘joint force’ ADF. (Source: Defence Connect)
29 May 19. Hard and fast: Brigade Combat Teams and the hardened army. Australia’s pursuit of a dedicated amphibious power projection capability is one of the core modernisation programs for both the Army and the ‘Joint Force’ ADF – however the need for a ‘hard and fast’ conventional Army organisational unit is rapidly becoming a necessity.
Modern warfare has rapidly evolved over the last three decades, from high-tempo, manoeuvre-based operations that leveraged the combined capabilities of air, sea, land and space forces to direct troops, equipment and firepower around the battlefield during the first Gulf War, to low intensity, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in southern Europe and the south Pacific, and the eventual rise of asymmetrical, guerilla conflicts in the mountains of Afghanistan and streets of Iraq.
This evolution has forced a major strategic rethink in militaries around the world, particularly as peer and near-peer competitors continue to invest in key technologies and combined arms capabilities, leveraging off the lessons learned over the preceding decades.
Australia is no different. The introduction of Plan Beersheba in 2011, and the shift toward developing a truly ‘combined arms’ force capable of leveraging Australia’s traditional advantages in high-tech platforms, world-class infantry and ‘espirit de corps’, serves as the nation’s first attempt to modernise and recapitalise the Army to face the fluid tactical and strategic challenges of the 21st century battlefield.
The Army’s major recapitalisation and modernisation programs were initiated with the introduction of ‘Plan Beersheba’ and subsequently expanded upon with the introduction of the ‘Accelerated Warfare’ and ‘Army in Motion’, each of which seek to outline and establish a truly combined arms force that is adaptable, survivable and capable on the battlefields of the 21st century.
While Australia’s pursuit of a dedicated amphibious force in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) as part of Plan Beersheba makes important progress in developing Australia’s land-based power projection capabilities, the increasing high-intensity capabilities of peer and near-peer competitors in the Indo-Pacific, combined with Australia’s growing responsibilities in the region, will require both capabilities operating concurrently.
Hard, fast and smart – combining force multipliers and coherent structure to enhance the ‘Joint Force’
For Army, key projects like LAND 400 Phase 2 and Phase 3, LAND 19 7B, the recently announced LAND 8112, and the future surface-to-surface long-range strike missile and integrated air defence platforms provide the service with the ability to leverage key inter-service platforms like AWD and F-35 to develop a robust shooting solution as part of the broader ADF ‘Joint Force’.
Meanwhile, major platforms like the Army’s Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) as part of the $5.2bn LAND 400 Phase 2 program, the yet to be announced LAND 400 Phase 3 next-generation armoured fighting vehicles (AFV), combined with the introduction of the Hawkei protected mobility vehicles, form the basis of a fast, networked and hardened army, while planned upgrades and a possible expansion of Australia’s fleet of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBT) as part of LAND 907 Phase 2 seeks to expand and enhance the combat power of the nation’s armoured corps.
Additionally, following teething problems, the growing capability of key air support platforms like the ARH-Tiger and MRH-90 Taipan are serving to enhance the overall capability of the Army and the broader mobility, manoeuvre and ability to conduct high intensity, high-tempo combat operations, without losing the ability to conduct low-intensity, asymmetric or humanitarian support operations.
While each of these individual platforms will serve to enhance the overall lethality, survivability and interoperability of the future Army, combining these platforms under a unifying doctrine with a coherent structure is essential to maximise the capability of the Army as a contemporary fighting force.
Enter the concept of the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) – established as part of a major restructuring of the US Army in order to take advantage of advancements in technology and platforms, while also responding to evolving geo-strategic and political realities in the post-Cold War era and the changing global responsibilities of the US.
Contemporary BCTs consist of an integrated combined arms, manoeuvre brigade incorporating support and fire units. BCTs are typically made up of 4,500 soldiers, with specialised infantry, mechanised infantry and light armoured reconnaissance, armoured units, divisional artillery, air, medical, logistics and command support.
Complimenting Australia’s amphibious force
Further recognising the constantly evolving nature of modern warfare, BCTs can be highly specialised – being broken down into infantry, mechanised infantry (Stryker), armoured, airborne and air assault capabilities – leveraging capabilities of individual platforms, while combining the capabilities of individual units and platforms to form an integrated web of systems and platforms capable of responding to any number of contingencies, without limiting the overall combat strength of the Army, by deploying a proportional, tailored, brigade size ‘combined arms’ force to global hotspots within 96 hours, as opposed to a division-sized force at 120 hours.
This flexibility and ‘hard, fast and smart’ combination of capabilities enables the BCT organisational structure to serve as potent forward-deployed conventional, ground-based, power projection and deterrence forces in continental Europe. For Australia, with a long history of regional deployment, engagement and capability building, independently deployable and capable BCTs serve as the perfect forward deployed complement to the amphibious ‘Quick Reaction Force’ of the 2RAR.
As Australia’s role in Indo-Pacific Asia and the strategic balance of power continues to evolve, the Australian Army will be called upon to fulfil a range of roles beyond those it has conducted over the past 50 years. Power projection and the application of ‘hard power’ in both a high and low intensity capacity will dramatically reshape the Australian Army despite an unprecedented level of investment. (Source: Defence Connect)
28 May 19. Trump expects Japan’s military to reinforce United States in Asia and beyond. U.S. President Donald Trump expects that Japan’s military will reinforce U.S. forces throughout Asia and elsewhere, he said on Tuesday, as the key U.S. ally upgrades the ability of its forces to operate further from its shores.
Trump’s comments followed his inspection of Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga, a helicopter carrier designed to carry submarine-hunting helicopters to distant waters.
The vessel, which will soon be upgraded to handle F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) jets, sailed to India on a flag-flying mission last year, going through the contested South China Sea, much of which is claimed by Beijing.
“With this extraordinary new equipment the Kaga will help our nations defend against a range of complex threats in the region and far beyond,” Trump said in a speech on the ship’s hangar deck.
The refit of the vessel, and its sister ship, the Izumo, is expected to bolster U.S. forces operating from Japan by providing a refuelling platform for U.S. Marine F-35Bs.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who accompanied Trump on the visit to the Kaga, has boosted defence spending since taking office in December 2012, stretching the pacifist constitution to ease limits on troop activities abroad.
He also wants to revise the post-World War Two charter to recognise the existence of Japan’s military.
The Kaga and the Izumo are the biggest aircraft carriers Japan has operated since its wartime defeat, but its Self Defence Forces designate them as destroyers, as constitutional curbs forbid possession of weapons that could be used to attack other countries.
Trump is winding up a four-day state visit meant to underscore the U.S.-Japan alliance, but shadowed by friction over Tokyo’s big trade surplus with America.
On Monday he told a news conference that Washington supported Japan’s efforts to improve its defence capability and touted Tokyo’s purchases of American military equipment.
Japan last year unveiled a plan to buy 45 more F-35 stealth fighters, including some B variants, worth about $4bn (3.16bn pounds), adding to the 42 jets it has already ordered.
Japan says it eventually wants to field a force of around 150 of the advanced fighter jets, as it tries to keep ahead of China’s advances in military technology.
“This purchase would give Japan the largest fleet of F-35s of any of our allies,” Trump said on the Kaga, docked at the Yokosuka naval base near Tokyo.
The base is the headquarters of the Japanese fleet and also the home port of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. (Source: Reuters)
28 May 19. Australia’s own Indo-Pacific fortress – The case for redeveloping Cocos Islands. Set amid an idealic island paradise, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands have long played a role in Australia’s defence policy and military history – now, with the shift in regional power dynamics, the strategically located islands are poised to play an increasingly important role in Australia’s future defence doctrine.
Today, strategic sea-lines-of-communication (SLOC) support over 90 per cent of global trade, a result of the cost effective and reliable nature of sea transport. Indo-Pacific Asia is at the epicentre of the global maritime trade, with about US$5trn worth of trade flowing through the South China Sea (SCS) and the strategic waterways and choke points of south-east Asia annually.
Meanwhile, the Indian Ocean and its critical global SLOC are responsible for more than 80 per cent of the world’s seaborne trade in critical energy supplies, namely oil and natural gas, which serve as the lifeblood of any advanced economy.
Australia is not immune to these geo-political and strategic factors and, as an island nation heavily dependent on sea transport – with 99 per cent of the nation’s exports, a substantial amount of its strategic imports, namely liquid fuel, and a substantial proportion of the nation’s domestic freight depending on the ocean – it is a necessity to understand and adapt and introduce a focus on maritime power projection and sea control.
The unique geographic realities in Indo-Pacific Asia range from vast swathes of deep, open ocean to Australia’s west, to relatively shallow, congested and narrow archipelagic bound choke points, including the Straits of Malacca, Lombok Strait and into the South China Sea.
Australia’s key advantage in the region is a far-flung coral atoll archipelago straddling the strategic waterways of the Indo-Pacific – namely key SLOC in the Straits of Malacca, Lombok and Sunda: the Cocos Islands, located 3,694 kilometres from both Perth and Darwin are the nation’s fortress in the Indo-Pacific.
Australia’s own Guam, Pearl Harbour or Diego Garcia
Combining a range of ‘joint force’ facilities, such as naval and air force facilities including Naval Base Guam, Anderson Air Force Base and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham, and key ISR facilities including the Air Force Satellite Control Network as part of US Air Force Space Command, Guam, Pearl Harbour and Diego Garcia, all serve as unique force multiplying forward-deployed basing, logistics and and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hubs for the US Armed Forces and the broader US intelligence community.
Australia’s own Cocos (Keeling) Islands have long been identified as a key strategic force multiplier for both Australian and allied-use. As recently as 2017, the joint standing committee on the national capital and external territories sought to identify the strategic opportunities for developing and enhancing the strategic importance and capabilities of the islands to support increased Australian engagement in the Indo-Pacific.
The islands have also become increasingly important to Australia’s allies, mainly the US as it has sought to ‘pivot’ towards Asia in response to increasing Chinese assertiveness.
The Obama administration’s ‘Asia Pivot’ outlined in 2012 kicked off growing speculation about the future of the islands, with The Washington Post identifying the strategic importance of the islands to the US and Australia, which ABC journalist Samantha Hawley explained during an interview with then defence minister Stephen Smith: “It might be down the track, but it’s undeniable that the US is eyeing off the Cocos Islands as a base to launch drones and manned US surveillance aircraft.
“The Washington Post newspaper has catapulted the prospect back into the headlines. The report states aircraft based in the Cocos Islands would be well positioned to launch spy flights over the South China Sea and would be considered as a replacement for the American Diego Garcia air base.”
The existing facilities on the island, including the single, 2,441-metre paved runway, combined with limited lagoon anchorages present a virtual blank canvas for interested parties to redevelop and expand the tactical and strategic opportunities of the location. Nevertheless, such redevelopment would require extensive investment in deep water berths, liquid fuel-storage to support forward deployed naval and air assets, accommodation and communications facilities.
Located 1,703 kilometres from Singapore and 1,296 kilometres from Jakarta and the adjacent SLOCs, the Cocos Islands are not without their challenges to military redevelopment – namely the small land area of approximately 14 square kilometres, combined with low elevation, and the relative isolation of the facilities making resupply difficult, particularly in the event of attack.
Despite these challenges, the strategic significance of the Cocos Islands, particularly when combined with next-generation Australian naval and air assets like the Attack Class submarines, Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels, and key power projection platforms like the Canberra Class amphibious warfare ships and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, MQ-4C Triton, E-7A Wedgetail and KC-30A Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT), highlights the importance of developing a ‘joint force’ facility.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands will become increasingly important as part of Australia’s strategic calculations, particularly as the balance of power between the US and China continues to narrow and the rising Asian power seeks to increase its influence and coercion beyond the reclamation of islands and development of an anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) system in the South China Sea. (Source: Defence Connect)
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