The Government has reviewed Australia’s Defence capabilities and considered the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) in light of changes in the strategic environment (as evidenced by the Defence Update released in February), recent operational experience and more mature costings.
The goal has been to ensure a balanced force able to achieve the objectives of the Defence 2000 White Paper whilst recognising the extra complexity of unconventional threats.
The review reaffirmed that the defence of Australia and regional requirements should be the primary drivers of force structure. Tasks such as the protection of Australia’s borders remain as important as ever.
In relation to force structure, the review process identified an increased requirement to strengthen the effectiveness and sustainability of the Army, to provide air defence protection to deploying forces, to enhance the lift requirement for deployments and to position the Australian Defence Force to exploit current and emerging Network Centric Warfare advantages.
In undertaking the review, the Government has drawn heavily on the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force and the Service Chiefs.
The Government has also been mindful to strike the right balance between maintaining near term preparedness and longer term capability.
In consideration of the review, the Government has now taken a number of decisions which lead to some rebalancing of the DCP.
Some of the more significant include:
The Government has accepted recommendations which will contribute to the Army becoming more sustainable and lethal in close combat.
The government has in particular accepted the advice of the Chief of Army that the combined arms approach – whereby infantry, armour, artillery, aviation and engineers work together to support and protect each other – remains the best way of achieving rapid success while minimising friendly casualties.
The Government has decided that to provide our land forces with the combat weight they need within combined arms will require the replacement of Australia’s ageing Leopard tanks.
A decision on which tank to purchase will be made by the Government in the near future. The Government is considering Abrams and contemporary versions of the Leopard and Challenger 2.
The Government has also agreed to move rapidly to acquire combat identification for our forces, more capable communications and increased provision of night vision equipment.
It is the view of the Army that with these additional capabilities, the introduction of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (a project which is on time) and additional troop lift helicopters for amphibious transport, the force will be significantly hardened and better networked.
Royal Australian Navy
Both frigates and amphibious ships have been engaged constantly since September 2001 across a full spectrum of operations. Additionally, the importance to the Government of the ability to safely deploy, lodge and sustain Australian forces offshore has been re-emphasised.
Whilst these deployments have been highly successful, lessons have been learned and government has accepted advice from the Chief of Navy to further improve capability.
Defence and warfare capability
The Government has accepted advice to strengthen the Navy’ s defensive air warfare capability. The anti-ship missile defence projects currently being implemented will be complemented by:
- the introduction of SM2 missiles to four of the Navy’s guided missile frigates (FFGs).
- the acquisition of three air warfare destroyers.
The FFG will be improved in Australia and the Government’s strong preference is to build the air warfare destroyers in Australia, which will provide significant work for Australia’s shipbuilding industry. The core of the combat system for the air warfare destroyers will be United States designed – probably a variant of the Aegis air warfare system. This combat system can track large numbers of aircraft at extended range and, in combination with modern air warfare missiles, can simultaneously destroy multiple aircraft at ranges in excess of 150 kilometres. This capability will significantly increase the protection from air attack of troops being transported and deployed.
To provide offsets, the two oldest FFGs will be laid off from 2006 when the last of the new ANZAC frigates is delivered. Furthermore, the Government’s strategic guidance will enable it to lay up two mine hunter coastal vessels which could be brought back into service should the need arise.
The Army and Navy have advised that the deployment requirements of the White Paper would require greater lift capacity than that envisaged in the current DCP.
As a result, the Government proposes to enhance Navy’s amphibious capability by replacing HMAS Tobruk with a larger amphibious vessel in 2010 and successively replacing the two LPA’s HMA Ships Manoora and Kanimbla with a second larger amphibious ship and a sea lift ship.
To help offset the costs of larger amphibious ships, the fleet oiler HMAS Westralia will be replaced through the acquisition of another operating but environmentally sustainable oiler which will be refitted in Australia. The substitute oiler, which is expected to be in service in 2006, is a less ambitious replacement than that envisaged by the White Paper.
This is a significant and demanding program for the Navy but one the Government thinks is warranted by the current and projected strategic environment.
Royal Australian Air Force
The Government has accepted advice from the Chief of Air Force that future strategic uncertainty demands continued emphasis on a balanced and flexible Air Force comprising intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air combat, strike aircraft and combat support elements. Furthermore, the Air Force must be networked, flexible and adaptable with modern versatile, multi-role capabilities that can contribute to joint and combined operations across the spectrum of conflicts.
The Government is of the view that a sound pathway to the future has been laid.
The Air Force already plans for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, new Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft are in production and air-to-air refuelling aircraft are out to tender.
The Air Force also has plans for the acquisition of Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles and a replacement for the AP-3C under the further maritime patrol and response capability.
In such circumstances, the Air Force has advised that by 2010 – with full introduction of the AEW&C aircraft, the new air-to-air refuellers, completion of the F/A-18 Hornet upgrade programs including the bombs improvement program and the successful integration of a stand-off strike weapon on the F/A-18s and AP-3C – the F-111 could be withdrawn from service. In other words, by that time the Air Force will have a strong and effective land and maritime strike capability. This will enable withdrawing the F111 a few years earlier than envisaged in the White Paper.
On 18 Spetember the Government announced a number of decisions flowing from the Defence Procurement Review chaired by Malcome Kinnaird. These included measures to strengthen the capability and assessment process, improve project delivery, strengthen the capability development and assessment process, improve project delivery, strengthen the current two-pass system, provide a better basis for project scope and cost and give greater recognition to the importance of managing through life support for capabilities. It is the Government’s intention that all capabilities set out under the revised DCP will be progressed in line with these reforms, subject to transitional arrangements.