The Urgency of Australian Defence By James Reed

Robert Gottliebsen, “Defence has No time to Wait, with Conflict Risks,” The Australian, February 24, 2021, p. 23, makes the valid point that Australia’s main defence projects are going slow because it is assumed that there is a low risk of immediate war. That assumption, Gottliebsen says, has been proven wrong. The immediate flash point in our region is China’s increasing aggression towards Taiwan.

Recently China sent aircraft close to the Pratas islands in the south China Sea, these islands being controlled by Taiwan. The islands have no permanent residents and are only lightly defended. In response, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets. The Chinese offensive involved an armada of 11 planes consisting of two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, eight fighter jets and an anti-submarine aircraft. Gottliebsen says that this was probably a test of Joe Biden.

The Australian defence assumption is that most of the cutting-edge equipment will not be operational until the late 2030s and 2040s, and by that time it is likely to be game over. The three projects of the JointStrike Fighter/F-35, the submarines, and the frigates, are taking too long.

A suggestion is to produce a revamped F-22. The submarines and frigates will almost certainly be dated technology, before they appear compared to weapons systems of the enemy. Best to buy proven equipment now, and upgrade it, so that we have something to fight with. But will the Department of Defence move to recognise the new defence threats? As I have often argued, this is unlikely. I think Robert Gottliebsen would agree, as expressed in his article, “Defence Blunders costly,” dealing with the defence cover-ups, and by many others:



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Monday, 17 January 2022