Peter Leahy, director of the National Security Institute at the University of Canberra, advocates that Australia cut its order for 100 Joint Strike Fighters to 60 planes and put at a higher risk our national security for the next thirty years whilst we await the arrival of the next generation drone strike fighter.
In fact, if the delays in delivery of the JSF seem inordinate, it is hard to imagine the delay in delivering such a complicated new weapons platform as a drone strike fighter. The JSF may have to serve this country for 40 years before it can be replaced by a proven unmanned fighter.
The Ivory Tower brigade keep chanting the mantra that Australia is under “no well defined threat” and yet Asia is arming with submarines, ships, hot Russian Sukhoi Su-30 attack aircraft, and more.
The whole of Northern Australia is within reach of the modern Russian attack aircraft that Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia possess now, not to mention their plans to expand the number of these weapons into the future.
We can make alliances with these countries which make us feel cosy without a defence force but they can make alliances between themselves against us in an instant if it suits their purpose at the time.
The only alliance Australia has that seems rock solid is with the US and this nation is facing significant defence spending cuts over the next ten years which will certainly place it under great strain with its “pivot to Asia” strategy.
Should the US presence in Asia be challenged, Australia is in for rough weather. We are isolated by geography to the Deep South, bordering the Great Southern Ocean with billions of Asians to our north. We are on the other side of the world to our traditional allies. We are a plum ready for the picking with vast natural resources in a large continent with a small population and no defence force.
Our continent is the size of the US and has a coastline of 36,000 kilometres to defend. Yet all our learned Ivory Tower professors can argue about is whether we should have 100 or 60 JSF attack fighters. Get real professors. Neither number comes close to securing Australia but the more aircraft we can afford the more secure we will be. The US has 2 to 3 thousand attack aircraft at any one time defending its nation and is continually striving for more and better aircraft.
Attrition losses of aircraft in any conflict will mean that any prudent country should have many aircraft in reserve. With the advent of modern intelligent air to air missiles the attrition rate is going to be higher than ever in future conflicts.
Air to air refuelling tankers and airborne early warning and electronic warfare aircraft will be the new front line in air warfare and there will be a need for more aircraft to defend these valuable and vulnerable assets, not less. Russia will soon be marketing missiles to the world that fly over incoming attack aircraft to specifically attack AWAC aircraft and fuel tankers causing major enemy disruption.
Australia is in an ugly situation with its government refusing to fund to the best of our ability a defence force capable of putting up credible resistance against any nation which puts us under overt or covert pressure, whether it be economic, social, or military.
The situation will become even uglier unless we buy as many US aircraft, weapons, and submarines as we can at the right price and assist our ally, the US, in completing its pivot into Asia.