No other country in the Pacific is overhauling its armed forces faster than Australia is.
Simply put, by 2020 and beyond the Australian Defense Force (ADF) can project high tech firepower anywhere in the world. It already does this today, but in the near future the scale of it will be much, much greater.
But rather than equip itself for a “big” war, the 58,000-strong ADF wants sleeker and swifter capabilities with a distinct technological edge.
Based on information gathered by the Asia Pacific Defense Reporter, an industry publication, the ADF is in the middle of a long-term program to change its entire arsenal. This multifaceted enterprise is being overseen by the government’s Defense Materiel Organization (DMO) under the Department of Defence (DoD). The DMO lists “Top 30 Projects” and a further 20 “minor projects” to transform the ADF.
At the forefront of this effort is the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Aside from commissioning two Canberra-class amphibious assault ships, 12 landing craft, and three Hobart-class destroyers manufactured by Spanish firm Navantia, work is underway for the construction of 12 submarines in a program called Sea 1000 Phase1A.
The RAN is also on the verge of replacing its current anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters with 24 newer MH-60R Romeos.
Deadlier than Before
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), on the other hand, is scheduled to operate 14 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters alongside its current fleet of F-18’s. Interestingly, an additional 12 EA-18 Growlers–F-18’s configured for electronic warfare–are expected to fly alongside the F-35’s.
The US and EU are actively supplying the RAAF with capabilities it never possessed before. A combination of 10 C-27J SPartan medium-lift transports, six E-7A Wedgetail AWACS, and five Airbus A330 refueling tankers are improving the RAAF’s range and coordination.
The RAAF isn’t neglecting its intelligence gathering potential either, with at least seven MQ-4C Triton UAVs (maritime versions of the US Global Hawk) and possibly 12 P-8A Poseidons being readied for deployment by 2015.
Comprising the bulk of the ADF, the Army is giving itself a multibillion dollar boost as well with 54 M777 towed howitzers and a $3 billion shopping list for logistics vehicles and Bushmasters.
The Bushmaster armored truck manufactured by Thales Australia is being standardized for every branch, with 1,000 joining the army’s motor pool in the coming years. Another pan-service investment is the Airbus MRH-90 utility helicopter, with 47 to be built indigenously and shared between the army and navy.
Most vital yet unnoticed is the equally large budgets for an unbeatable “battle management” capability where radar, satellites, and communications systems allow ADF commanders to direct operations in real-time.
The total cost balloons Australia’s defense budget to an epic $29.8 billion. Like many ambitious rearmament programs, however, it’s possible not all of the DoD’s projects are rubber stamped by the civilian government.