As the Indo-Pacific region faces an aggressive and belligerent China amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, on Wednesday, announced strategic plan to counter the Chinese expansion in the region.
The challenges and changing nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests,” the Prime Minister said.
He said while unveiling 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.
Speaking on the budgetary allocation for defence, Prime Minister Morrison announced “capability investment of $270 billion over the next decade.”
This is up from up from $195 billion Australia committed following the 2016 Defence White Paper.
“It will expand our plans to acquire sophisticated maritime long-range missiles, air-launched strike and anti-ship weapons, as well as additional land-based weapons,” he explained.
Speaking on the low allocation for defence, he mentioned that by 2013 the defence budget had fallen to 1.56 per cent of GDP.
“That was the lowest level since 1938,” the prime minister said.
Illustrating the implication of the low allocation, he said that in last six years Australia has not commissioned any warship construction program since the completion of the Hobart-class air warfare destroyers and the Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Docks.
Calling US and China not only actors of consequence, Morrison said that as the US and China competes for “political, economic and technological supremacy”, Australia and rest of the world will not remain mere bystanders.
“It's not just China and the United States that will determine whether our region stays on path for free and open trade, investment and cooperation that has underpinned stability and prosperity, the people-to-people relationships that bind our region together,” he added.
Since defence white paper of 2016, the Australian government has come out with various policy initiatives including Defence Industry Policy Statement 2016, Naval Shipbuilding Plan in 2017, Defence Industrial Capability Plan 2018.
The new plan envisions acquisition and upgrade 23 different platforms for defence forces with total investment of almost $183 billion.
Australia is expected to invest $15 billion cyber and information warfare capabilities. Last year Australia invested $156 million on cyber security.
The Australian cyber security strategy “will include funding of $1.35 billion over the next decade to enhance the cyber security capabilities and assistance provided to Australians through the Australian Signals Directorate, represented here today and of course also the Australian Cyber Security Centre,” he added.
As part of the execution of this new defence policy, Australia will acquire “AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), with range of 370 km, from the United States at an estimated cost of around $800 million.
This new missile will replace the AGM-84 air-launched Harpoon anti-ship missile with a range of 124 km.
“LRASM will initially be used on the F/A-18F Super Hornets and has the flexibility to be integrated onto other Defence aircraft. Training on the weapon system is set to commence in 2021,” the Australian government said in a statement.