Sunday, 25 March 2012

What Australian naval power?

Interesting thoughts on Australia's position at The Diplomat.

A more specific question re capability:
Riley Clendo (Facebook):What are the needs of Australia’s navy going forward? Do you feel it needs to develop anti-ship missiles to keep up with other nations in Asia? Do you feel it should base its strategic thinking on China's growing capabilities? What type of vessels and capabilities should Australia invest in?Culturally, the Royal Australian Navy is an heir to the Anglo-American tradition of sea-power: sea-control dependent on ever larger surface combatants remains the dominant – and, in my view, unfortunate – organizational preference. Bizarrely, at a time when Chinese submarine warfare and anti-ship missiles are improving at a rate out of proportion to Western forces’ ability to defend against them, Australia is undertaking a major upgrade of its surface fleet, with plans for three Air-Warfare Destroyers, two massive LHD amphibious assault vessels and a new fleet of over-sized frigates – all of which will require the Royal Australian Navy to concentrate its personnel rather than improving redundancy by dispersing them on a greater number of smaller, more stealthy platforms.
Canberra would, in my view, be far better served by emulating key aspects of China’s own sea-denial strategy, which blurs strategically defensive objectives with an offensive war-fighting doctrine to clear rival navies out of designated areas. That would mean using disruptive technologies to exploit Australia’s geographical advantages in ways that raise the costs and risks to hostile forces seeking to project air or land power in the vicinity of Australia’s air and maritime approaches or in the approaches to the archipelago to its north.
The basic ingredients, among other things, would involve: plenty of land-based air-power; a large, robust submarine fleet; advanced mine-warfare capabilities; a constellation of satellite, maritime surveillance aircraft and land-based radar; and, to the extent surface combatants remain secure and cost-effective, a fleet of Fast Attack Craft armed with high-speed anti-ship missiles.
Of course, a coherent force structure such as this would require a considerable increase in Australian defence expenditure. It would also demand a major overhaul of the administrative foundations of Australian defense policy, which is a quite parlous state at present. So, although it’s very important, I’m not holding my breath.
Raoul Heinrichs is Sir Arthur Tange Scholar at the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, ANU, an editor at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and Deputy Editor of Pnyx.

My own view is that some surface control is necessary: the ability to control the surface around RAMSI-style missions, for example, without depending on the United States. Just spend the money and have the option and maintain the tradition and maintain the broadness of capability for the day we wish we had it. But the point about sea denial and submarines is well made.

The pendulum may be swinging towards China's land-to-sea missiles, but that will not last forever and does not diminish the need for sea power projection capability. What it does is create a need to modify doctrine to take into account the current reality.

Let's be optimistic: we are still a regional power and want to be able to smack all other players down at will, not just maintain the ability to smack down attackers only.

No comments:

Post a Comment