The previous three articles considered how Australia would fare in a war with Indonesia circa 2030 based on current trends. These articles found that Australia would be convincingly defeated in a high tempo conventional war based on known facts and reasonable projections.
Despite the warnings of academics and subject matter experts Defence and a revolving door of Defence Ministers continue to live in a fantasy land. In this parallel reality the Joint Strike Fighter is a superlative combat aircraft that can defeat all future threats, the TNI is a primitive third world force – the kind that we defeated in Iraq but less equipped. Russia is still the enemy and Russian equipment is always inferior. The army is only really needed for low intensity conflicts in far-away places, not for national defence; and our real security lies in the US alliance. Indonesia is a future ally against China not a peer threat. None of these beliefs are true. However they have resulted in an acquisition path which will leave Australia unable to project force, defend its near neighbours or guarantee its national sovereignty. Further, that path is not fiscally sustainable so further inadequacies are inevitable.
A plane for pilots to die in – the Joint Strike Fighter
The Left of Australian society are even more disconnected from reality when it comes to defence issues. They see the strategic environment of the next three decades as essentially benign. A senior policy analyst for a central government agency once told me that if Australia spent more on foreign aid it wouldn’t need a military. While regional instability is sometimes acknowledged it is assumed that Australia’s role is to assist in policing or UN stabilisation missions, and to offer a home to the human overflow that washes up on our shores. The lessons of World War Two have been entirely forgotten.
In this context Australian defence planning is exactly where it was in 1938. Then it was assumed that Asians were racially inferior, could never develop a military capability to defeat Western nations, and no one would dare to attack both the British Empire and American interests in the Pacific. Consequently Australia ignored the military rise of Japan and invested in irrelevant and out dated military capabilities. As a result we came close to being overrun.
Today South East Asia is in the grip of an arms race, fuelled in part by the rise of China. This arms race is not a temporary shopping spree but a long term trend towards developing modern, balanced and supported military forces fielding world’s best equipment. The fact is that poor countries can develop formidable military capabilities very quickly. Australia has proven itself unable to do so, but continues to invest in irrelevant platforms like the Joint Strike Fighter while assuming that no one would ever threaten Western allies in the Pacific. This reveals an underlying racism in Defence’s attitude to regional capabilities. As a result we have a gold plated train wreck with potentially tragic consequences.
The scenario modelled in the previous articles is weighted heavily in Australia’s favour. In coming decades South East Asian nations will invest in top tier ISR capabilities including UAVs, and air borne early warning and control aircraft that are equivalent or superior to Australia’s Wedgetail. Cruise missiles will be standard inventory items, may be manufactured locally under licence, and may include stealth features. Existing Sukhoi customers such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam will in coming decades be flying the PAK-FA stealth fighter which comprehensively defeats every aircraft in the Western World except the F-22. China will be mass manufacturing a larger navalised stealth fighter bomber the J-20, which also comprehensively defeats every aircraft in the Western World except the F-22. As mentioned previously, the F-22 is out of production – shut down to release more funds for the Cuckoo in the defence funding nest – the Joint Strike Fighter.
In the next post I consider an alternative path. This path provides Australia with an affordable, supportable, and balance military that can counterbalance the exponential growth in regional capabilities.
Tag line: Australian defence strategy, Joint Stike Fighter, TNI, ABRI, Sukhoi, PAK-FA, T-50, J-20, stealth aircraft, Pacific Rim defence, Defence White Paper