JAMES O’NEILL. Australian defence strategy still locked in a past era

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald (25 March 2019) the coalition government, if re-elected, would spend $2.5 billion on an air defence system. The object of the expenditure is said to “bolster Australia’s capacity to intercept enemy aircraft”. The new system will also defend against helicopters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems.

The cost is divided between an initial acquisition price of $1.5 billion and a further $1 billion to operate and maintain it over two decades. The Minister for Defence Industry,Linda Reynolds, said that the project had great export potential.

Once again, one has to wonder exactly what planet our defence politicians and their advisors actually inhabit. While the cost of this touted new system is small change compared to the tens of billions of dollars being lavished on expensive boondoggles such as the F35 joint strike fighter and the French built submarines, it is another illustration of wasted expenditure on military equipment not fit for purpose.

The stated object is to be able to defend against four intruders:  helicopters; unmanned aerial systems; enemy aircraft and cruise missiles. Why one would need a $1 billion system to defend against helicopters, with their low altitude, short range, slow moving and noisy character simply boggles the mind.

Exactly what is meant by ‘unmanned aerial systems’ is not defined, but presumably refers to drones. The same point applies here as to helicopters. The more serious question relates to enemy aircraft and cruise missiles, and the source of those hostile intruders.

There is no obvious reason for Australia to be attacked by Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or any other country for whom Australia would be within the range of its bombers. The unspoken “enemy” here is presumably China, although again that raises the obvious question as to why China would wish to attack Australia. The only obvious answer to this is as a defensive reaction to an attack upon China itself.

Australia would only do that as part of yet another United States led “Coalition”, but why Australia would wish to be involved in such a foolhardy exercise against its largest trading partner should not be seriously contemplated by our defence planners, and if it is they need to spell out their rationale in clear terms.

Let us assume for arguments sake that China did attack Australia. It would not be with helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles or bombers. It would be done with one or more of its repertoire of supersonic missiles from the Dong Feng family of missiles, most probably the DF41. This missile system travels at hypersonic speed (Mach 20) and has 8 to 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads.

There is nothing in the current repertoire of United States or Australian missile defence systems that can defend against such an attack, and the heroic claims of  Defence Minister Christopher Pyne that it will be a “highly effective defence system” is simply nonsense.

If Australia did get into a shooting war with China, that war would likely involve China’s strategic partner Russia, whose missile systems (for example, Zircon, Burevestnik, Avangaard and Kinzhal) are decades ahead of US military technology, as even the United States itself admits (www.news.com.au19 December 2018). For details of these Russian systems see Martyanov www.unz.com5 March 2018; and Vineyard of the Saker www.thesaker.is24 January 2019.

James O’Neill is a barrister at law and geopolitical analyst.  He may be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au

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6 Responses to JAMES O’NEILL. Australian defence strategy still locked in a past era

  1. michael lacey says:

    Probably should by the Russian S 400 system and the Russian short point defence system ! Much better and cheaper!
    The shareholders would not be as happy!
    The familiar money making exercise ! Two thirds of the shares are owned by 1% of the population in the United States that would be similar here after 4 decades of neoliberalism. We buy stuff whether it is effective or not!

  2. Ian mannix says:

    Can the missile system be used on a battlefield, say in Oruzgan it Iraq? If so perhaps it makes sense?

  3. Rex Williams says:

    If anyone can see any qualification in the past record of Linda Reynolds as a long time member of the Army RESERVE only, please let us all know.

    But here she is, now the Defence Minister after the short term and convenient (for him and his super) tenure of Christopher Pyne. A history of a revolving door of grossly incompetent politicians.
    Is she aware of the questions raised in this article by James O’Neill, the ridiculous purchases of diesel powered submarines for up to $ 50 billion, a collection of extremely costly fighter aircraft which have been a long time coming, the cost of any one of which would support education in the mis-managed country for a year and a defence system which she considers would have “export potential”. How is that for priorities?
    As a voter, one would have a right to ask what, if anything, she knows about such matters.
    Export potential? Is that what we are here for? The selling of weapon systems such as the heavy subsidisation (by an LCP government) of a optic weapons system made in Canberra, recently announced as yet another product with “export potential”. Perhaps another jolly trip to Saudi Arabia to wine and dine the murderous Saudis as they create a humanitarian crisis in Yemen after murdering a journalist in one of their embassies.
    The fact that we try to emulate our hegemonic terrorist masters in Washington as they plunder the world, makes us even more of a joke than we have been in the past as we happily undertake with New Zealand troops the killing of Muslims in many countries in the Middle East. All part of the US “War on Terror”, a series of conflicts based on US manufactured lies and dirty deeds that would justify having been conjured up by Hans Christian Andersen, with all the real so-called “Terror” supplied by the USA. It’s the business they are in.

    It would seem to me that based on the stated “export”emphasis, a Defence Minister needs more in the way of sales and marketing skills in the job rather than a knowledge of military activities, the long term protection of our country and the management of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen. The best that can be said is that she has worn a khaki military uniform part time for some years and that she adds to the male/female ratio for the feckless PM and his collection of proven misfits.

    I doubt if the likes of Christopher Pyne, the previous incumbent had ever fired a shot in anger, now conveniently off to the happy land of gross Ministerial superannuation payments for the rest of his life, at great cost to this country.
    A person less like a Defence Minister one couldn’t have found in any country. The best that could be said for the LCP on its way to an election, is that Linda Reynolds would have to be better than the grossly superannuated Mr C Pyne.

    Anyone would.

  4. Nic Stuart says:

    The headline grabbed me so I read on. However sentence two confused me. Is Linda Reynolds Defence Minister or Defence Industry Minister? Then we hear about the “tens of billions being lavished on expensive boondoggles like the F35”. Quite so, but by now the author is evidently so delighted with his flights of rhetorical construction that, unfortunately, his assault rapidly turns into a simple diatribe. Drones and helicopters are very different – the same comments do not apply. James O’Neill has a real point; it’s a pity he can’t explain it properly. Sloppy assaults such as this simply hand the debate to the other side.

  5. Bruce Cameron says:

    Hi James,
    Congratulations in contributing to this important debate (which deserves to be much more robust than it is at present).
    I gather that you have no idea as to what is involved in developing and maintaining the Australian Defence Force’s contingency plans. It is these, of course, which form the basis of ADF training objectives. Once the plan is developed, it has to be kept up to date and modified as circumstances change. The Australian shipping register, for example, provides details of maritime assets which might have to be commandeered in time of defence emergency. This data may underpin a contingency plan.
    The contingency plan that British forces utilised when the Falkland Islands were invaded, specified the importance of integral air defence. So it was that this capability was deployed (and utilised to protect British ground forces).
    If the ADF seeks to procure a ground based integrated air and missile defence system, it’s because this is a capability required by contingency plans, formulated to defend Australia and its interests.
    When Australia deployed forces to Iraq, it was not able to support them with it’s own armour. General Cosgrove said that this was because the AFVs would be “aging orphans”. In fact the tanks could have been supported from Europe. The real problem was that electronic interoperability had not been maintained. The ADF has learnt from this and the air defence system to be acquired will enable the ADF to deploy either in its own right, or as part of a multinational force.
    To say that the need for this capability is nonsense, is really saying that the relevant contingency plans are nonsense. Although this is a different argument altogether, it is one worth debating. This is much more difficult, however, than simply criticising a single military capability that the ADF considers necessary.

    • I’d believe the James O’Neill intention is more to enquire if the impregnable “Fortress Singapore” still applies rather than the ADF must be on their brief. For instance-as raised why would a China who is economically but the Red Army families who demand 10 to 20% of the profit of doing business (even from their own people) be imagined –a cohesive invasion risk–as contingent some might rightly also have enquired regards Argentina. ?? So to assist the Academy and Duntroon and inappropriately initiated but Royal College boffins –and bring the capabilities up to scratch–EVEN the water melons being grown since ‘Operation North Borders ” took control of the former land masses of Queensland carry the DEPLETED URANIUM –which designated bombing ranges (and wild rivers ??)– is now dispersed even into the ISIS known strongholds of Melbourne’s drains and tap water.

      ie a weapon that CANNOT cannot even be stored-without civilians, contracted employees , European allies supposedly presentable as wholly uninformed and now veteran organisations all instructed that Iraq II ‘had great investment and business opportunities’-adding –to 1991 and Gulf War One that 60% of major participants ‘now report’ as full and permanently invalided capacity .

      But Singapore and the Straits News had the reliable intel — ‘there were barely but a dozen cases’ -even if Basra from the time of its assault –had streets , buildings and therefore the population of many thousands ordered to remain – recorded continually as comprehensively radio-active toxic– from sensor monitoring –directly applied from space.

      Was the Portugese and Spanish secession now seen as more long term– and the political contingency was to mainly prevent last centuries land rights -but most West Papua –any of Doctor of Wyndhams pearls. (??)

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