Australia today announced an ambitious plan to boost the country’s defence capabilities by pledging to spend USD 139 billion over the next decade in what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called “high stakes” and “momentous times” in Asia.
The announcement came with the launch of 2016 Defence whitepaper that includes bolstering the country’s naval strength by doubling the size of its submarine fleet to 24, as well as commissioning three additional air warfare destroyers, nine anti-submarine frigates and 12 patrol boats.
The ambitious plan also includes adding some 2,500 new military jobs to expand the total defence force to 62,400 personnel.
“These are momentous times. The stakes are high. And as the opportunities expand, so does the cost of losing them,” Turnbull said, citing increased defence spending in countries across Asia and possible flashpoints for international conflict in South China Sea and Korean peninsula, as well as the increasing threat of global terrorism.
The prime minister called the present times in Asia one of the biggest strategic challenge Australia has faced “in peacetime”, even as its closest ally, the US directs its foreign policy pivot towards the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s increased assertiveness has fueled tensions.
In the next two decades, said Turnbull, “half the world’s submarines and half the world’s combat aircraft” would be deployed in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We would be concerned if the competition for influence and the growth in military capability were to lead to instability and threaten Australia’s interests, whether in the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula or further afield,” he added.
According to an official statement, the White Paper has been the culmination of detailed analysis of Australia’s strategic environment, its defence priorities and objectives, and the capabilities required to achieve these outcomes.
The federal Government has also set a new benchmark for transparency and funding by releasing an Integrated Investment Program and Defence Industry Policy Statement.
The fully costed, ten-year Integrated Investment Program would bring together all capability-related investment including new weapons, platforms, infrastructure and science and technology.
Apart from this, the government would also invest in comprehensive upgrades to defence infrastructure to support its larger future force, including key bases, training and testing ranges and fuel and explosive ordnance facilities and modernised information management, operational communications, and command and control systems.
Australia is also participating in the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria.