Facing an increasingly belligerent China on its doorstep, strong US ally, Australia, is embarking on a major military buildup to counter the Chinese threat. At the launch of its 2020 Defense Strategic Update, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would spend A$270 billion (US$186 billion) on defense over the next decade.
This is a 40 percent increase over the amount pledged under its 2016 strategic review.
During his speech, reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Morrison warned that Australia must prepare for a post-pandemic world that would be “poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly”, Morrison said the country faced a “conflation of global economic and strategic uncertainty” not seen since World War II.
After months of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) threats, bullying, and scandals involving Chinese espionage, Australia is now taking the China military threat very seriously.
As noted by the SCMP, Morrison stated:
We are undertaking the biggest regeneration of our Navy since the second world war, and have charted the transition to a fifth generation air force. This includes the F35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter, the most advanced Strike Fighter in the world. The Joint Strike Fighter.
This significant Australian defense buildup is extremely welcome, and will greatly improve US and regional allies – such as Japan, and India’s – ability to counter Chinese expansion and aggression – not just near Australian shores – but also in the South China Sea and broader Indo-Pacific region.
Per its 2020 Force Structure Plan, Australia will invest heavily in cybersecurity capabilities and an underwater surveillance system as part of its efforts to “maintain security and deter or respond to aggression in the Indo-Pacific”.
Perhaps, most importantly though, Australia’s improved naval forces will complement growing US anti-ship and strike capabilities.
Canberra’s new defense plan includes “the purchase of long-range anti-ship missiles from the United States to equip its fleet of Super Hornets,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported. “It will also investigate the possibility of acquiring new long-range missiles that can be launched from the land in the future, including hypersonic missiles…”
Australia’s biggest planned defense purchase is for a slew of state-of-the-art, stealthy, Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) for its squadron of F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters. This is particularly noteworthy. LRASMs are just now entering the US fleet. They can strike targets at a range of more than 230 miles, triple the range of the current air-launched Harpoon anti-ship missile.
Australia will not be alone in getting LRASMs in the region. In February, the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) also confirmed it will be buying LRASMs as well as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) fleet of F-15J Eagle multirole fighter aircraft, reported The Diplomat.
Japan intends to procure the new weapons systems “as soon as possible.”
Combined with the expanding US, and now Australian missile strike forces, all these new LRASMs nearby should give pause to the increasingly cocky Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Welcome to the fight, Australia.