Big plans set for defence force

16_Big plans set for defence force

By Max Blenkin, AAP Defence Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)

Australia will buy 12 new submarines, plus new warships and aircraft and recruit more defence personnel under plans to be spelled out in the new top level defence planning document.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne will unveil the long-awaited Defence White Paper before an audience of defence force cadets in Canberra on Thursday.

More than two-years in the making, this will spell out strategic risks through to 2035 and what equipment Defence will need in this uncertain environment.

It will also outline acquisition of new equipment on the basis that defence funding will increase to two per cent of gross domestic product by 2023 as promised in 2013 by former prime minister Tony Abbott.

The government is committing to buy 12 new submarines. What the White Paper won’t say is whether the new subs will be of a German, French or Japanese design and just where and how they will be built.

The White Paper will canvass some familiar threats including terrorism and weapons of mass destruction plus growing risks including rising tensions in the South China Sea.

It will likely also foreshadow some potentially controversial new defence kit.

Defence has long operated unmanned surveillance aircraft but not armed drones. Already some Australian personnel have trained on US unmanned aircraft. The White Paper will likely spell out a long-term requirement for an armed drone capability, either the US Predator or Reaper.

North Korea’s recent long-range missile test has highlighted the danger of rogue nations with nuclear weapons.

Australia has long considered missile defence such as the US SM-3 missile system that could be fitted aboard the navy’s new air warfare destroyers. The White Paper could commit Australia to head down this path.

With the new White Paper will come a new 10-year investment program – a defence shopping list for new equipment, along with full costings for acquisition and operation – and a new defence industry policy statement.

Mr Turnbull used question time to outline how future defence spending could benefit Australian industry, workers and regions.

He said the nation’s security depended on a strong defence industry.

“Key to this commitment … is the priority we give to ensuring every available defence dollar, wherever possible, is leveraged to promote a strong, innovative globally competitive Australian defence industry,” Mr Turnbull said.


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