Saturday, May 02, 2009

Homeland Defense

The Australians are planning, if funded, for greater air and naval power:

The plan says world powers will jockey for naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean as it gains importance as a seaway for oil shipped from the Middle East to Asia.

It does not single out any single country as posing a military threat to Australia, which is a close military ally of the United States.

The plan focuses on building Australian naval and air force strength to take any fight over Australia's security far offshore.

To do this, Australia's current fleet of six Collins-class submarines will be replaced by 12 longer-range Australian-manufactured submarines. The government, which bans atomic energy in Australia, has ruled out nuclear propulsion. The navy's 12 frigates will also be replaced by the same number of larger warships.

Australia will remain without an aircraft carrier.

The government plans to buy 100 U.S.-manufactured Lockheed F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighters to phase out the current Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets over the next decade.

This all makes perfect sense. Australia needs to defend at sea, for if any enemy intent on waging war makes it to shore, Australia would need a huge army to defend their nation/continent. That's not going to happen, although it wouldn't hurt the Australians to organize light infantry local defense forces to fight until the good but tiny army arrives to fight any enemy force that does make it ashore.

But the basic defense will be aircraft and submarines that could attack enemy ships on the way to assault Australia. Even if the enemy had a couple carriers, the F-35s with their stealth abilities would be a good weapon to sink them and shoot down any aircraft they carry. The submarines would be able to operate against the invasion fleet, too, even in the face of enemy naval superiority.

The frigates would be best for leveraging allied help to sail with either American or possibly Indian ships to fight a common foe. Alone against a major enemy fleet they'd be fairly worthless.

I know nobody is being rude enough to name that enemy but the only conceivable foes that might in the future pose an invasion threat are China and perhaps even Indonesia. So the added advantage of their defense plan is that it gives us confidence that Australia will still be fighting by the time our forces can arrive to help.

I wonder if Australia will actually fund this defense plan.

UPDATE: The Australian defense minister denies that China is the primary foe for planning purposes:

"It's not about China necessarily," he told Channel Nine television when asked if Australia was over-reacting to Beijing's rise.

Fitzgibbon said shifting power dynamics meant more uncertainty and Australia, a strong US ally, had to be prepared to defend itself.

"We do think that there will be a number of other powers floating about, China and India for example, the re-emergence of Russia," he said.

So regardless of whether China, India, or Russia emerges as an enemy, Australia will be ready.

But I bet only China whines about this plan.