Australia plans major defense overhaul to deter CCP military buildup

The Associated Press

Australia must raise defense spending, make its own munitions and develop long-range missiles to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) military buildup, according to a government-commissioned report released in late-April 2023.

The Defense Strategic Review supports the partnership among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUKUS, which in March 2023 announced an agreement to create an Australian fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government commissioned the review to assess whether Australia has the defense capability, posture and preparedness to defend itself in the current strategic environment. (Pictured: Royal Australian Navy ships sail in formation during the Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise.)

He said the comprehensive review was Australia’s most significant since World War II. “It demonstrates that in a world where challenges to our national security are always evolving, we cannot fall back on old assumptions,” Albanese said.

The public version of the classified review recommended that Australia’s government spend more on defense than the current 2% of gross domestic product, make munitions domestically and improve the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) ability to strike targets at longer ranges.

Other recommendations included improving the force’s ability to operate from Australia’s northern bases and deepening defense partnerships with key Indo-Pacific countries.

The CCP’s military buildup “is now the largest and most ambitious of any country” since the end of World War II, the review said. It “is occurring without transparency or reassurance to the Indo-Pacific region of China’s strategic intent,” it said.

The strategic circumstances during the current review were “radically different” than those in the past, said the report, authored by former ADF Chief Angus Houston and former Defense Minister Stephen Smith.

The government immediately plans to delay or abandon U.S. $5.2 billion in defense spending to reflect new priorities.

Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy said an order for infantry fighting vehicles was reduced, and those savings and the cancelation of a second regiment of self-propelled howitzers will accelerate acquisition of a U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, that is proving effective for Ukraine’s defense against Russia.

The maximum range of the army’s weapons will extend from 40 kilometers to over 300 kilometers and, with the acquisition of precision-strike missiles, over 500 kilometers, Conroy said.

“This is about giving the Australian Army the fire power and mobility it needs into the future to face whatever it needs to face,” Conroy said.

For the past five decades, Australia’s defense policy has aimed at deterring and responding to potential low-level threats from small- or middle-power neighbors. “This approach is no longer fit for purpose,” the review said.

Australia’s Air Force, Army and Navy need to focus on “delivering timely and relevant capability” and abandon its “pursuit of the perfect solution or process” in its procurements, it said.


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