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Australia will acquire long-range missiles to protect overseas forces, allies and the mainland against rising threats including China.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Wednesday deliver a major update to the nation's defence strategy, including the purchase of long-range anti-ship missiles from the United States to equip its fleet of Super Hornets.
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 that can travel at least five times the speed of sound.
The new strike capability will be acquired to defend Australia and its allies against a number of threats as part of the new strategy, which focuses the nation on protecting itself and its allies in the immediate region of the Indo-Pacific.
North Korea and China in recent years have been accelerating their development of long-range ballistic missiles, which can travel more than 5500 kilometres.
In a speech at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Morrison will say Australia “must face the reality that we have moved into a new and less benign strategic era”.
He will say the rising tensions in the region mean Australia must be able to hold potential adversaries' forces back from a greater distance.
“This includes developing capabilities in areas such as longer-range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial systems,” Morrison is expected to say.
The Morrison government's 10-year defence strategy also opens the door to pursuing cutting-edge weaponry, including directed energy weapons and hypersonic glide vehicles, still in early phases of deployment in the U.S and China.
Australia intends to join the great powers in developing a specific capability to enter the once-futuristic realms of war in space and cyber and information war.
Canberra is looking to the U.S to supply and support Australia's new weapons, extending its deep existing dependency on Washington.
Australia has previously rejected an offer by the United States to deploy its own long-range missiles in Darwin, but has been investigating the option of buying about 200 of the Lockheed Martin missiles for its fleet of Super Hornets and possibly other aircraft. The purchase of the missiles - which can travel up to 370 kilometres - will cost about $800 million (US$552 million).
The new air missiles would be a significant upgrade from the ADF's current Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was introduced in the early 1980s and only has a reach of 124 kilometres.
The Prime Minister will say tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region, including disputed border clashes between India and China, the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Since the government's 2016 Defence White Paper was released, Morrison will say the world has witnessed an acceleration of the strategic trends that were already under way.
“The risk of miscalculation - and even conflict - is heightening,” he is expected to say.
Morrison will say relations between China and the U.S are fractious as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy, but “they are not the only actors of consequence”.
“Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the countries of south-east Asia, and the Pacific all have agency - choices to make and parts to play. So too does Australia,” Morrison will say.
“There is a new dynamic of strategic competition, and the largely benign security environment Australia has enjoyed - roughly from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Global Financial Crisis - is gone.”
The new update will prioritise the ADF's geographical focus on the immediate region - the area ranging from the north-east Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland south-east Asia to Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific.
The strategy has three main objectives: to shape Australia's strategic environment, deter actions against Australia's interests and respond with credible military force, when required.
The rationale of the new strategy is that global capability is no longer as important - a sign that Australia will get involved in less Middle East ventures and concentrate its defences in the Indo-Pacific region.
The government strategy emphasises "shaping" the strategic environment by intensifying relationships with friendly countries in the region, including south-east Asia and the south Pacific.
It aims to stop unfriendly states building new military bases and infrastructure in the region. While China is not named, it is the overwhelming cause for concern among government strategists.
The plan pledges $270 billion (US$186 billion) over 10 years, a commitment designed to give planning certainty well beyond the normal four-year budget cycle. This is not an increase in Australia's defence spending in real terms beyond the status quo.
It does not anticipate major new delivery platforms - that is, submarines, ships or planes - beyond the pre-existing decisions.
The government is earmarking $7 billion (US$4.8 billion) for space warfare, $15 billion (US$10.3 billion) for cyber and information war, $55 billion (US$37.9 billion) for land combat, $65 billion (US$44.9 billion) for aviation and $75 billion (US$51.8 billion) for maritime capability.
Some lesser defence contracts will be cancelled to save money for the new weaponry, but experts are bound to question the adequacy of the new budget promises.
The defence budget for next year is anticipated to reach two per cent of Australia pre-pandemic GDP, fulfilling a Coalition promise. But the new strategy says that the government will no longer use a GDP-related target for defence spending.
A theme of the strategy is adding to domestic capability wherever possible. About $50 billion (US$34.5 billion) is earmarked for developing domestic defence enterprise and workforce.
The boost to defences follows a virtual meeting between foreign ministers of the Association of South-East Asian Nations on Tuesday night.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced Australia would make a $23 million (US$15.8 million) commitment to help ASEAN nations bolster health security, maintain stability and stage an economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus.
The release of the new defence strategy comes after the government announced on Tuesday Australia's chief cyber defence agency would recruit 500 new staff under a $1.35 billion (US$932 million) package.
The money will come out of elsewhere in the defence budget.
The government will release its new four-year cyber security strategy in the coming months, which will follow a wave of cyber attacks against Australian governments and businesses, which security agencies believe came from China.
Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said she welcomed the funding announcement, but it was "not a strategy".
“We look forward to the government finally delivering the cyber security strategy. We will work with the government to ensure our national security, including cyber security, is not only maintained but strengthened,” she said.
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