Australia Must Increase Its De Essay, Research Paper
Australia Must Increase Its Defence
As we enter the 21st century we can see that countries all over the world spend large amounts of money on their defence. The United States of America alone spends around $450 billion annually on defence (pg 49, Defence Review 2000). This essay examines the three Australian armed forces, namely the navy, the air force and the military to see what improvements they require, in order to protect themselves in the new century. It also discusses countries that could be potential threats to it in the future and steps required to be taken by the Australian government to overcome these threats.
The Australian maritime forces include submarines, aircraft, surface ships and their helicopters. In all there are nine major warships, out of which seven ships are usually available for operations and two of them are generally in maintenance on a circulation basis (Pg 40, Defence Review 2000). These ships have very limited defences against the new anti-ship missiles that have been acquired in neighbouring countries such as China and Japan, the defensive capabilities on these ships were designed in the late 80 s and are no longer very effective against modern technologies (Pg 40,Defence Review 2000). Australian ships currently do not have the ability to shoot down attacking aircraft at long distances (Pg 40, Defence Review 2000). To prevent vulnerability from enemy aircraft this ability is a necessity for an island nation such as Australia. However this capability is expensive and the current defence budget cannot afford it. Another important concern is the older guided missile frigates, which reach the end of their lives around 2013 (Pg 40, Defence Review 2000). An integral component of the navy is its submarine fleet, its capabilities are now depleted due to problems in the new Collins class boats, only one of the old Oberon submarines is still in service (Pg 40, Defence Review 2000). The Collins class submarines were especially designed and built for Australia s unique strategic requirements such as long open-ocean transits and difficult operating areas in shallow (Pg 42, Defence Review 2000). However last year it was found that the submarines did not perform at the levels required because of a range of contract shortfalls, design deficiencies, excessive noise signature and an inadequate data processing system (The Independent Prescott report, June 1999). This leaves the Australian continent with a single submarine that is old and has outdated technology; it certainly cannot do much to protect the nation at sea in the case of a war. The above problems in the Australian navy need to be addressed as soon as possible.
The Australian air force is primarily made up of two integral parts, namely air combat and the strike force (Pg 36 Defence Review 2000). The air combat is based on a fleet of 71 F/A-18 aircraft with radars, missiles and other weapons systems, supported by a number of air bases across northern Australia (Pg 36 Defence Review 2000). In any air combat the key strengths are the skills of the pilots and other personnel who operate and support the aircraft, however the aircrew is limited. This is a matter of concern-without proper aircrew combat aircrafts serve no purpose (Pg 36, Defence Review 2000). The F/A-18 aircraft were bought in the 1980s, at which point of time they could defeat any hostile air force operating in Australia s nearer region, but in the 1990 s more capable aircraft and air-to-air missiles have entered service in other Southeast Asian countries (Pg 36, Defence Review 2000). Enemy missiles can detect Australian aircraft before they can detect the enemy aircraft, and the enemy can fire their missiles first, within a few years the Australian air force will not be able to operate against such units in front-line air-combat roles at an acceptable level of risk to its pilots and aircrafts (Pg 36 Defence review 2000). In addition to that 15 years of service is beginning to take its toll on the airframes and signs of fatigue can be noticed (www.dsto.defence.gov.au/coporate/publicity/brochures/dividends4.html). These fighter planes cannot last forever and need to be upgraded or possibly even changed so as to prove effective in a war. The muscle of the Australian strike force are 35 F-111 long-range bombers, that carry a substantial weapons load and can deliver a load of precision guided weapons (www.defence.gov.au). Due to the lack of funding it is hard to maintain these bombers and only about six of them can be kept on a ready alert (www.defence.gov.au).
The Australian army mainly consists of two infantry brigades with about three thousand personnel (Pg 43 Defence Review 2000). Despite of good training an army that is so small cannot possibly take on a larger conventional army, armed with heavy firepower. With a small defence budget it is hard to sustain an army. The Australian land force also has tanks, armoured reconnaissance, mechanised infantry but these are in limited numbers.
Compared to other countries occupying big land masses such as China and America the Australian defence expenditure is negligible. As mentioned earlier the United States spends around $450 billion on its defence annually, where as China spends approximately about $50 billion (www.chinfo.mil). China and Singapore spend about 4% of their gross domestic product on defence, where as Australia spends only 1.8% of its GDP on defence (Xinhua News Agency). Japan spends over $40 billion on its defence as compared to the $10 billion that Australia spends (Aviation Week and Space Technology). China has a population of approximately 2 billion and India of over a billion (www.globalstatistics.com) A large population density in Asian countries puts more pressure upon the land for resources, and there is a rise in poverty. This draws the attention of the people elsewhere in order to fulfil their basic needs. Australia is a highly inviting place for such countries because of the low population density; to ensure safety from high population countries such as these Australia needs to maintain a strong military force.
America has an air force that is almost a hundred times that of the RAAF. The American air force consists of 4108 operational aircraft as compared to the 40 Australian operational aircraft (America s Armed Forces: A History, James Morris). The American navy consists of 318 surface ships and over a hundred nuclear submarines currently in active service, the army has over 1 million personnel (www.armytimes.com). Even though the American population is considerably larger than Australia, it still has a large land mass that it needs to protect for which it needs a very strong military. In a recent article Australian Defence minister John Moore claims that the United States will always come to Australia s aid but Australia needs to maintain its own defence to be self-reliant in regional conflicts such as East Timor (The Australian). Defence Secretary William Cohen mentioned that in case of a full fledged attack on Australia it could take American forces such as big aircraft carriers up to two days to reach the area, which might be too late (Time Magazine, September 1998).
According to Defence Secretary Allan Hawke Australia s military spending is at its lowest since 1939 and needs to be substantially increased in order to update aging equipment (Aviation Week and Space Technology). Alan Dupont, director of Asia-Pacific security at Australia s National University in Canberra maintains that public support is crucial to strengthen Australian defence forces. In a recent debate Prime Minister John Howard said, I do seek to make the point that in terms of national priorities, I believe that in the years in front of us, defence will need to bulk larger that it has over the past few years. (Xinhua (China)).
From the information above we can gather that Australia is certainly lacking in its defence. It needs to improve its air force, navy and significantly increase the size of the land force. Australia needs to be aware of possible threats from Southeast Asian countries and take steps to prevent these threats from becoming a reality. It cannot depend on the United States to act like its big brother, instead, it needs to be self-reliant. Australia needs a stronger military force!