Scott Morrison unveils whopping $270 billion defense funds to counter China

“Relations between China and the United States are fractious as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Key Points

  • Scott Morrison has committed $270 billion to defence spending over the next 10 years
  • Australia would purchase the 370KM range AGM-158C LRASM Missile from the United States costing $800 million
  • $7 billion funds for space capability
  • $9.3 billion funds for hypersonic weapons development
  • $5 billion to $7 billion capital spending on unmanned submarines capabilities
  • $15 billion funds for cyber warfare capability
  • $11 billion funds for unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) i.e. Loyal Wingman programme

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed $270 billion over the next decade to prepare Australia’s military, including with new long-range missiles, against a “more dangerous and more disorderly” world. 

Australia will build a larger military that is focused on its immediate backyard, including new long-range anti-ship missiles, signalling a major shift in the nation’s defence strategy.

“We have not seen the conflation of global economic and strategic uncertainty now being experienced here in Australia in our region since the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s,” the Prime Minister warned.

The prime minister on Wednesday in Canberra outlined the nation’s plan to build up the Australian Defence Force and move to a greater focus on its efforts on the Indo-Pacific region.

Mr Morrison said this included developing capabilities in areas such as longer-range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial systems. 

“The simple truth is this: even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly,” he said.

The strategic environment and heightened risk from any miscalculation make it vital that Australia is able to respond with credible military force if it needs to, Mr Morrison said.

“If we needed reminding, 2020 has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the challenges and threats we face as a nation evolve continuously,” he said.

Mr Morrison also announced a commitment to spend $270 billion over the next decade on defence capabilities, including more potent strike weapons, cyber capabilities and a high-tech underwater surveillance system.

Over the four years, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is expected to grow by 800 people, comprising 650 extra personnel for the Navy, 100 for the Air Force, and 50 for the Army.

According to Defence’s 2019-20 Budget Statement, the ADF was estimated to grow to 60,090 by this year, with 16,272 full-time public service staff.

Its budget was expected to grow to 2 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product by 2020-21, “equating to approximately $200 billion in Australia’s defence capability over 10 years”, making the new announcement an increase of $70 billion to the department.

Mr Morrison said some $7 billion would be invested in space capabilities over the coming decade and invest $15 billion in cyber and information warfare capabilities.

This will expand plans to acquire “sophisticated maritime long-range missiles, air-launched strike and anti-ship weapons, and additional land based weapons systems”.

It would include weapons that could strike ships or land from thousands of kilometres away, test long-range hypersonic weapons, boost cyber capacity and surveillance, and build a network of satellites so the nation has an independent communications network.

Mr Morrison said the reality was Australia has moved to a new and “less benign” strategic era.

“The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of rising strategic competition,” he said. 

“Tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region – as we have seen recently on the disputed border between India and China, in the South China Sea, and in the East China Sea.”

 Mr Morrison said Australia needed stronger deterrence capabilities to “influence their calculus of costs involved in threatening Australian interests”.

The first program is named AIR 3023 Phase I “Enhanced Maritime Strike for the Air Combat Capability”. It calls for the procurement of anti-ship missiles for the Super Hornets of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The RAAF has a fleet of a 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets and 11 EA-18G Growler. The future missile would likely be fitted on the Super Hornet exclusively however.

“Capabilities that can hold potential adversaries’ forces and critical infrastructure at risk from a distance, thereby deterring an attack on Australia and helping to prevent war,” Mr Morrison said.

The government will also invest in more highly integrated and automated sensors and weapons, including potential development of hypersonic weapons.

It comes as the US under Donald Trump has become more inward-looking and inconsistent.

Mr Morrison says Australia remains prepared to make military contributions outside of the Indo-Pacific region, including backing US-led coalitions.

“But we cannot allow consideration of such contingencies to drive our force structure to the detriment of ensuring we have credible capability to respond to any challenge in our immediate region.

“If we are to be a better and more effective ally, we must be prepared to invest in our own security.”

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