‘More lethal and long-range capabilities’: Government invests $270b in defence

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday July 1, 2020

Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds walk past a Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle as they arrive to speak during the launch of the 2020 DefenceStrategic Update at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The federal government will invest $270 billion into capability upgrades for the Australian Defence Force over the next 10 years as part of a new strategic policy and the 2020 Force Structure Plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the policy would prioritise the Indo-Pacific region, ensure Defence has more durable supply chains, and “create more high-tech Australian jobs”.

“Whether it’s our Pacific Step Up, our engagement with regional neighbours, or our deepening cooperation with partners new and old, our focus must be on the Indo-Pacific – it’s where we live and where our interests are,” he said in a joint statement with defence minister Linda Reynolds.

“We are also providing Defence with the funding certainty it needs to deliver on our new strategic defence policy. This will ensure we are able to shape our environment, deter actions against our interests and, if required, respond with military force.”

Defence has had to adapt to a “constantly changing and deteriorating strategic and defence environment”,  Reynolds said, referring to the recent bushfires and COVID-19, but not the cyber attacks which she and Morrison recently — and somewhat vaguely — announced.

“Australia’s security environment is changing quickly, with militarisation, disruptive technological change and new grey zone threats making our region less safe,” she said.

“That’s why this government will invest in more lethal and long-range capabilities to hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia, including longer-range strike weapons, offensive cyber capabilities and area denial capabilities.

“We will also invest in capabilities to give Australia better awareness of our region and to support regional engagement, while substantially increasing our air and sea lift capability to ensure we can rapidly respond to events across our region.”

The new strategic policy would require force structure and capability adjustments, outlined in the 2020 Force Structure Plan.

As part of the plan, the government would buy an $800 million weapon from the United States Navy — the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), which has a range in excess of 370 km.

The government has also planned to invest in naval weapons (including long-range anti-ship and land strike weapons); long-range rocket artillery and missile systems; and the development, testing and evaluation of high-speed long range strike (including hypersonic weapons).

Investment in the acquisition of such weapons would grow from $14.4 billion (34% of the budget) to $29.2 billion (40%) over the next decade, Morrison and Reynolds said.

Other key capabilities and priorities under the 2020 Force Structure Plan included:

  • Arafura and Guardian class patrol vessels, a new vessel to support the Pacific Step-Up, an expanded replacement for the C-130J fleet and new amphibious landing craft to enhance posture and partnerships in the region,
  • Attack class submarines, advanced strike systems, remotely piloted combat aircraft, sea-mining and offensive cyber capabilities to “hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia”,
  • Increased weapons inventories, options for expanded domestic munitions manufacturing, additional fuel storage and increased domestic industry participation to “enhance the ADF’s self-reliance”,
  • Enhanced Special Forces capabilities, strengthened operational cyber capabilities, integrated intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and increased space tracking and sovereign satellite systems to better respond to grey-zone activities,
  • Expanded deployable health care and combat engineering capabilities and future multi-role sealift and replenishment vessels to improve ADF support during national crises and natural disasters.

The plan also included the recently announced $1.35 billion Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response package.

Read more: Spy agencies to receive $1.35b under cyber security package


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