24 March 2016
Australia’s new Defence White Paper provides for a massive increase in defence spending, largely to acquire new maritime capabilities. But questions surround whether this plan will be achievable and whether the paper’s long-term strategic outlook is valid.
The Australian Navy is the big winner from the plan, with a commitment to acquire 12 long-range submarines, nine new frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels. As well as the existing commitment to acquire 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, Air Force capabilities will be boosted by 15 P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and seven Triton surveillance drones. The Army will get new armoured fighting vehicles, a riverine capability and new armed reconnaissance helicopters. Personnel numbers in the Defence Force will be increased by 5000.
To deliver these capabilities, the White Paper provides a new 10-year budget plan with an additional AU$29.9 billion (US$22.7 billion) for defence. Under this plan, the defence budget will grow to AU$42.4 billion (US$32.2 billion) in 2020–21, reaching 2 per cent of Australia’s GDP.
The White Paper acknowledges that the relationship between China and the United States will be the most strategically important factor in the Indo-Pacific region. While the paper purports to look out to 2035, it assumes little change in the current geo-political environment.
… Sam Bateman is an adviser to the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 24/03/2016