As highlighted in the 2016 Defence White Paper, Australia has an enduring interest in the stability and security of the South West Pacific. Defence’s longstanding engagement in the region focuses on supporting our Pacific Island neighbours protect their security and sovereignty.
This support continued to grow in 2017 as Australia implemented the second component of the region-wide Pacific Maritime Security Program. The program is a $2 billion commitment to the region over the next 30 years, and consists of three components: Pacific Patrol Boat replacement, integrated regional aerial surveillance, and efforts to strengthen regional coordination.
The Pacific Maritime Security Program is the successor to the original Pacific Patrol Boat Program, which saw Australia gift vessels to Pacific Island countries between 1987 and 1997. These vessels, which are packaged with long-term Australian sustainment, training, infrastructure, and advisory support, are now approaching the end of their serviceable life. Defence will progressively replace these with 19 larger and more capable Guardian-class Patrol Boats, to be gifted to 12 Pacific Island countries from late 2018–23. Two further vessels will be gifted to Timor-Leste in 2023.
The second component of the Pacific Maritime Security Program commenced in financial year 2017–18: region-wide civilian contracted aerial surveillance. This contracted fixed wing capability is supporting targeted, intelligence-driven maritime patrols, enhancing the capacity of our Pacific Island neighbours to locate and stop illegal activity within their Exclusive Economic Zones and adjacent high seas.
The Pacific Maritime Security Program has continued enhancing Pacific Island countries’ capacity to effectively collect, analyse, manage, and share maritime security information – internally, with neighbours, and with the region. Defence has stepped up its support for regional countries to conduct cooperation patrols, and has enhanced the capability of regional maritime coordination centres through new equipment.