Mark Collins – New Aussie Defence White Paper: The Two Percent Solution

Unlike Canada’s miserable one percent of GDP for defence–but then the Aussies, for a variety of reasons, take their military much more seriously than Canadians do.  And right now they are well into this mix:

The Asian Maritime Cockpit: The Dragon, the US Navy and the South China Sea

The conclusion of the Australian government’s announcement, with links to the detailed papers:

The Government’s defence strategy is supported by increased defence funding, which will grow to two per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product by 2020-21, three years ahead of the Government’s 2013 election commitment. The Government’s funding plan provides $29.9 billion more to Defence over the period to 2025-26 than previously planned, enabling approximately $195 billion of new investment in our Defence capabilities in this period.

The Defence White Paper is a key part of the Government’s commitment to a safe and secure Australia. The Australian people can have confidence that this Government will ensure that we can defend our nation and protect our interests today and into the future…

One wonders, not with optimism, what will result from the Canadian government’s current defence review.  Now news stories, remember Australia’s population is only some two-thirds of Canada’s 35 million:

1) Aussie: Defence White Paper: Australia joins Asia’s arms race with spending on weaponry and military forces to reach $195b [Oz dollar roughly on par with Canadian]

Australia will embark on a decade-long surge in weaponry and military forces to defend its land, sea, skies and space from Asia’s rapidly growing military forces.

The 2016 Defence White Paper maps a course towards a total of $195 billion in defence capability or equipment by 2020-21, together with a larger military force of 62,400 personnel, the largest in a quarter of a century [the regular Canadian Forces are only some 68,000].

Joining an Asian-region mini arms race, the White Paper promises 12 submarines to be built at a cost of more than $50 billion between 2018-2057.

However, maintenance costs will push that $50 billion budget much higher.

Navy will scoop a quarter of all new spending on capability, with nine new anti-submarine warfare frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels [more here–the RAN also suffers from the political curse of having to build ships domestically, see here for Canada].

The RAAF will build up two fleets of drones [meanwhile RCAF efforts to acquire U(V)AVs drone endlessly on] while also bringing its eventual fleet of 75 Joint Strike Fighters online [72 actually–plus 36 Super Hornets and Growlers]…

Defence officials have told the ABC the White Paper reflects Australia’s “growing discomfort” with China’s military activity…

On the path to building defence funding up to 2 per cent of GDP, the Government will also “de-couple” its spending on the military from the general health of the economy, so that even if growth slows, defence will still get its 2 per cent share [emphasis added].

US Ambassador to Australia John Berry described the White Paper as a “well-considered, comprehensive approach to addressing evolving security challenges of the coming decades”…

What will the American ambassador in Ottawa say of our defence review?

2) USNI News: New Australian Long Range Defense Plan Has Maritime Emphasis

Australia has placed significant emphasis on enhancing its maritime capabilities in its long-delayed 2016 Defence White Paper amidst an overall surge in the country’s defense spending, while warning that China’s policies and actions will have a major impact on the stability of the Indo-Pacific in the coming decades.

Released on Thursday [Feb. 25], the White Paper was accompanied for the first time by a Defence Integrated Investment Program (DIIP) that sets out the level of investment needed to develop and sustain Australia’s defence capabilities over the next ten years.

The DIIP allocates a figure of approximately A$195 billion (U.S. $139.85 billion) over the next decade “to fund investment in support of the future force”, marking an increase of A$29.9 billion (US$21.4 billion) over projections and bringing the defense budget beyond the targeted two percent of GDP by FY2020-21…

The main talking point of Thursday’s White Paper has been Australia’s Collins-class replacement submarine acquisition program. The White Paper has confirmed that Australia will proceed with acquiring twelve “regionally superior submarines with a high degree of interoperability with the United States” and expected to enter service in the 2030s [for my part I’m not convinced the RCN needs to be in the sub business–we only have four, sort of–nor that the money required is worth it given the very tight Canadian defence budget].

The twelve boats, which will double Australia’s submarine fleet, will be acquired via a rolling acquisition program to ensure there is no capability gap and initiate the development of a replacement submarine in the 2050s, when the construction of the last of the twelve submarines is expected to be completed. No decision on whether some or all of the boats will be built in Australia has been made, and that will likely be revealed when the winning bid is revealed later this year.

Three diesel-electric submarine designs are currently be considered; Japan’s Soryu-class [see “Canberra/Tokyo U-Boat Axis=Poor Procurement? (Washington in background)“], the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design by France’s DCNS-Thales Consortium and the Type 216 design by Thyssen-Krupp Maritime Systems of Germany. Interoperability will be achieved to a large degree by fitting General Dynamics’ AN/BYG-1 combat system combat system and the Mark 48 Mod 7 torpedo jointly developed between the United States and Australia.

The White Paper also touched on the replacement of Australia’s venerable Lockheed-Martin P-3C Maritime Patrol Aircraft, with Australia increasing its fleet of Boeing P-8A Poseidon Multi-Mission Aircraft from eight to fifteen by acquiring seven more aircraft in two tranches to be delivered in the late 2020s. Australia has one of the largest Search and Rescue zones in the world, and the P-8s ability to stay aloft for long durations far away from home will come in useful, together with its offensive capabilities against an adversary’s submarines and surface ships [the RCAF plans to keep 14 modernized CP-140 Aurora ISR aircraft flying until 2030].

Also confirmed is the acquisition of seven Northrop-Grumman MQ-4C Triton High-Altitude Long Endurance UAVs from the early 2020s. Together with the P-8s, the Tritons will be used for persistent maritime patrol and other Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) tasks over a broad area. Australia had previously announced its intention to acquire the Triton, although no timelines or confirmed numbers have been revealed until today [Feb. 25]…

Unsurprisingly, ISR features prominently in the White Paper. In late 2015, Australia acquired two Gulfstream 550s under a Foreign Military Sales Program for conversion to provide an airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare (ISREW) capability. The White Paper indicates Australia has an eventual requirement for five such aircraft, to be acquired in two tranches and will be operational from the early 2020s. These aircraft will enhance electronic warfare support to naval, air and land forces for operations in electromagnetic environments and interoperability with equivalent American systems is also a key requirement [should Canada be looking for something similar involving our national champion aircraft maker? “Boeing, SAAB Promoting Military Versions of Bombardier Bizjets“]…

Then on the civilian side:

Government signals largest restructure of Defence personnel in a generation


The federal government has announced the largest shake-up of Defence personnel in a generation with close to 1200 public servants, most of whom are Canberra-based, set to contest new roles within the department.

The Defence white paper, released on Thursday, announced the creation of 800 new roles in intelligence, space and cyber security [a subject our government hardly takes very seriously] divisions. Another 400 roles will be created in strategic policy, engineering, IT and diplomacy.

But the government has capped the number of public servants within the Department of Defence at 18,200, prompting unions to fear close to 1000 staff will be made redundant given current staffing of around 18,000…

The Aussies certainly have a more muscular view of matters than Canadians.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


5 thoughts on “Mark Collins – New Aussie Defence White Paper: The Two Percent Solution”

  1. Very interesting:

    ‘Combat drones could take the place of some Joint Strike Fighters: Defence Chief

    The evolution of combat drones is likely to be so rapid over the next decade that Australia might buy them instead of some Joint Strike Fighters, the Chief of the Defence Force has said.

    The Defence white paper, released last week, states that Australia will buy 72 Joint Strike Fighters to replace current fighter planes the Classic Hornets…

    But it leaves open the possibility of not buying a final squadron of roughly 25 JSFs to make up the roughly 100-strong air combat fleet Australia needs.

    Instead, the paper states that to replace the newer current squadron of Super Hornet aircraft from about 2030, alternatives will be “considered … in light of developments in technology and the strategic environment and will be informed by our experience in operating the Joint Strike Fighters”.

    Asked during a briefing on the white paper what Defence was planning, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin – himself a fighter pilot – said it was keeping an “open mind”, given the rapid improvements in armed drones or “unmanned combat aerial vehicles”.

    “We’re going to be open-minded because if you go … say 10 years between now and when we consider [the next planes] … you are starting to see the evolution of the UCAVs, unmanned combat aerial vehicles. So I think we need to keep a bit of an open mind … We shouldn’t just lock in and say ‘That’s the way it’s going to be for 50 or 100 years’.”..’

    Mark Collins

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