Australia Joins Asia's "Mini Arms Race"
Australia plans to double the size of its submarine fleet to 12 and commission three additional destroyers, nine anti-submarine frigates and 12 patrol boats.
The plan is outlined in a newly released 2016 White Paper that the government says will provide a comprehensive and responsible long-term plan to ensure Australia’s national security.
The spending will boost Australia’s military capabilities in the midst of what some have dubbed Asia’s “mini arms race.” Earlier this month, China's state media warned of a possible arms race after proposals that South Korea might deploy a missile defense system after North Korea’s recent nuclear test.
According to the white paper, spending will be increased by A$29.9 billion ($21.6 billion) over the next decade to reach two percent of the nation’s GDP.
For the first time, the White Paper released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne, fully aligns strategy, capability and resources to make the Australian Defence Force (ADF) more capable, agile and potent, the government said in a statement.
Defense officials told the ABC that the paper reflects Australia's growing discomfort with China’s military activity, and China has responded angrily to the paper. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was dissatisfied with what it saw as negative comments about the South China Sea in the document.
Hua said China did not want to see an arms race and hoped relevant countries could give up joint drills and withdraw their military presence in the region.
Payne has told 7:30 the government knows the South China Sea is a point of difference between Australia and China. “We obviously have very significant relationships with China across a range of areas and not least of which is our trading relationship,” she said. “But, importantly, as part of our defense relationship we work with the PLA Navy, with the PLA itself.”
Australia is expected to announce later this year whether Japan, Germany or France will build the diesel-electric submarines that will supersede the navy’s six Australian Collins-class vessels.
As a result of the new spending plan, the navy will receive about a quarter of the new spending. The airforce will build up two fleets of drones and bring its fleet of 75 Joint Strike Fighters online. The army will buy armed drones, new protected vehicles to transport troops, helicopters for special forces and a long-range rocket system.
The government has also set a new benchmark for transparency and funding certainty by releasing an Integrated Investment Program and Defence Industry Policy Statement. The fully costed, ten-year Integrated Investment Program brings together all capability-related investment including new weapons, platforms, infrastructure and science and technology.
The government will also invest A$1.6 billion ($1.2 billion) over 10 years in programs to build industry skills, drive competitiveness and export potential while harnessing Australian innovation and expertise. The government funding will also include:
• Enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, space, electronic warfare and cyber capabilities.
• Advanced training, modern equipment, health care and logistics systems to support ADF personnel.
• Comprehensive upgrades to Defence infrastructure across Australia to support our larger future force, including key bases, training and testing ranges and fuel and explosive ordnance facilities.
• Modernized information management, operational communications, and command and control systems.