Long-range missiles, armed drones and anti-submarine warfare will form the bedrock of Australia’s new defence policy, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveils a record $270 billion military spending package that he says is vital to deter potential attacks and “prevent war”.
The taxpayer will spend $75 billion more over the next decade on Defence capability than was originally outlined by former PM Malcolm Turnbull in the 2016 Defence White Paper.
Mr Morrison will outline the record military funding in a speech at the Australian Defence Force Academy on Wednesday, as he warned of “a post-COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly.”
A central plank of the package will be $800 million to be spent to acquire the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), from the US.
The missile, with a range of nearly 400 kilometres, is a significant upgrade from current Harpoon missiles with a range of 124 kilometres.
“We must face the reality that we have moved into a new and less benign strategic era – one in which the institutions and patterns of co-operation that have benefited our prosperity and security for decades are under increasing strain,” Mr Morrison will tell ADFA, warning of “tensions” involving China in the Indo-Pacific region.
The risk of miscalculation – and even conflict – is heightening.”
In a frank address, Mr Morrison will warn that the “largely benign security environment” since the fall of the Berlin Wall “is gone”.
He will also outline a major shift in Australia’s defence strategy – the reorientation of resources and new spending meant to project an ability to respond to foreign threats.
The PM does not specifically criticise China, except for the mention of tensions in the East and South China seas, but makes repeated veiled allusions to external interference in the Pacific.
“We don’t seek to entangle or intimidate or silence our neighbours. We respect their sovereignty. And we expect others to respect ours,” he will say.
Where Australians’ money will go
Australia’s navy will get a $75 billion injection, with billions to be spent on anti-submarine technology, and aerial and undersea warfare.
This includes spending on border security, maritime patrol, and up to $7 billion on undersea surveillance.
The air force will receive $65 billion, with up to $11 billion for combat drones and $17 billion on fighter planes.
Some $55 billion will be spent on land operations, with up to $11 billion on autonomous vehicles and up to $11.5 billion on long-range rocket and artillery systems.
It also includes up to $2 billion for army watercraft, including patrol boats and amphibious vehicles.
About $7 billion will be spent on Australia’s space capabilities, including updating communications and satellite technology.
Another $50 billion will be poured into defence enterprise, including infrastructure, upgrading ports and improving munitions supplies.
But at the heart of the package is a massive investment in long-range missiles, able to be launched from air, sea or land.
The LRASM missiles will be fitted onto the F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jets, and may later be placed on other air force planes.
The government is also understood to be investing in the development of hypersonic weapons, which would operate at speeds above Mach 5.
Mr Morrison also outlined plans for greater co-operation and renewed ties with ”partners old and new”, such as Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Australia will expand the Jindalee radar network to more closely monitor the country’s eastern edges, as well as investing new funds in intelligence, under-sea surveillance and cyber capabilities.
Mr Morrison said the so-called “grey zone”, of foreign attacks “below the threshold of traditional armed conflict”, was a particular focus of the new spend.
But the PM also repeatedly raised the spectre of actual warfare, saying the ADF “now needs stronger deterrence capabilities”.
“Capabilities that can hold potential adversaries’ forces and critical infrastructure at risk from a distance, thereby deterring an attack on Australia and helping to prevent war,” he said.
About 800 new ADF personnel will be employed in coming years as new equipment is secured, including 650 in the navy alone.