Australia looks for defense buildup

June 16, 2009 at 12:07 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, June 16 (UPI) -- Australia's recently released Defense White Paper outlines the country's defense strategy for a generation and promises many opportunities for military hardware procurement.

Australia made the White Paper, with its promised allocation of $30 billion in new spending through 2019, public last month, but it's the upcoming release of the accompanying Defense Capability Plan that has defense equipment companies on the edge of their seats.

The DCP will detail where the billions will be spent.

The White Paper, released by Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, predicted that Australia's defense spending, now about $19.2 billion a year, will increase 3 percent a year until 2018 and then 2.2 percent annually through 2030. The expectation is that there will be an additional $117 billion in funding over the time period.

"The capabilities outlined in the White Paper will, over the next 20 years, create one of the most capable defense forces in our region, with the world's best people, equipment and support systems," Fitzgibbon said in a department release. "The Australian defense force we are creating will have access to leading-edge technology, the finest equipment and the most professional and capable soldiers, sailors and air men and women."

Fitzgibbon said the plan is to "remediate the shortfalls and underinvestment in the defense budget."

"This important remediation work will renew, repair and refit the kit we have and the system and facilities that support it."

Given that the White Paper and subsequent operational details were 14 months in the making, the department's plans aren't likely to change even with Fitzgibbon's recent resignation as defense minister in an ethics scandal over use of an office by a relative. It is unknown if new Defense Minister John Faulkner will push back the release of the DCP.

But no matter when it happens, it means spending money -- and a lot of it.

For instance, said Australia will buy as many as 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from Lockheed Martin along with increases in the Australian air force's fleet of heavy transport aircraft and planes designed for maritime searches and antisubmarine capabilities.

Additionally, the Australian navy is penciled in to order 12 new submarines and a series of destroyers and frigates that would have enhanced weapons capabilities. The army can look forward to a "Combat Vehicle System" fleet of about 1,100 vehicles with improved protection and weaponry, thousands of support vehicles and several medium-lift helicopters.

In releasing the White Paper, Fitzgibbon said, "As a result of the decisions taken by the government in this White Paper, the (Australian military) of the future will be a more potent force, particularly in the key areas of undersea and antisubmarine warfare, surface naval warfare, air superiority, strategic strike, special forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and cyberdefense."

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