If you can do so briefly, can you please characterize the kinds of transformational programs and activities the Australian DoD will be engaging in over the next two decades? Are any of these efforts the kinds that might provide partnership opportunities with allied nations like the United States?
The ADF is an organization undergoing transformational change over the next two decades. For example, we are seeking to gain synergy by networking our military capabilities. All our major platforms of the future will be able to freely exchange data between them and so we’ll be able to convey the mission-critical data through the system down to each soldier on the ground. This requires a significant investment in networks and bandwidths. That in turn involves collaborative agreements with the U.S. to ensure that we are able to do this around the world with good interoperability. There are also individual projects with the capability for enhancement that will result in an exponential increase in performance on the battlefield.
One of the key capability transitions will be in air combat. The White Paper confirms our government’s belief that the [U.S. F-35 Lightning II] Joint Strike Fighter is the best option to replace the current F/A-18 [Hornet] A and B models that we have in service. Also, the Joint Strike Fighter will eventually replace the F/A-18F [Super Hornets], which we are procuring to replace the F-111 fleet that’s being retired at the end of next year, 2010. Around a hundred of these fifth-generation, multi-role combat aircraft will be purchased by the ADF. The capabilities provided by the F-35, including its ability to be a network node on the battlefield and its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, will collectively enhance our defense capabilities and complement the other major capabilities coming into service.
Another of the headline capabilities that are introduced in the 2009 White Paper is the forecast procurement of a fleet of about 12 submarines. The Australian Defence Forces’ new submarines will be the largest single defense project in Australia’s history. The new boats will have greater range, longer endurance [on station], and expanded capabilities over the current Collins-class submarines that we’re operating in Australia. They will certainly present design and industrial challenges, and Australia will look in part to the experience and advice of the U.S. in the areas of submarine design and associated science and technology. Also, we’re procuring new air warfare destroyers. These were announced before the issue of the White Paper in 2009. The air warfare destroyers will deliver to the Navy a significantly enhanced air defense capability primarily through the acquisition of the [U.S.] Aegis missile and weapons control system that will be installed in each of the air warfare destroyers.
Another area where we’re entering new territory and gaining transformational capabilities is in the area of high-altitude UAVs, unmanned air vehicles. By 2030, our aerial maritime surveillance capability will be a mix of manned and unmanned platforms. The government intends to acquire a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the aging P-3C Orion fleet and to procure up to about seven high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aerial vehicles to give us a persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability over our nearer regional areas. Each of these programs will require close collaboration with the U.S. and other international partners.
Australia and the United States have had a “special” relationship dating back to World War II and the Battle of the Coral Sea. In your mind, what form does that special relationship take today in the 21st century, and what does that relationship entitle each nation to expect from the other in times of crisis and need?
Actually, the relationship goes back further than that. The Great White Fleet probably represents one of the first interactions we have between the militaries back in 1908 when the U.S. Navy Fleet, which was painted white at the time, and was hence known as the Great White Fleet, sailed around the world and stopped in Sydney and in Perth and in Melbourne on its way around the world. In Sydney, it was met by something like 400,000-500,000 Australians, out of a population of about 4 million at the time. They were certainly given a very warm welcome back then. There were also very strong military-to-military ties established between the U.S. and Australia in World War I and in fact, the very first use of American troops in combat in World War I was at the Battle of Hamel in 1918 – which, in fact, was launched on the Fourth of July, 1918. Those first U.S. troops went into battle under the command of an Australian general, Gen. Monash, who put the American companies into larger Australian formations to give them some initial experience in combat. Of course, the U.S. troops performed incredibly well and they certainly developed a close rapport with their Australian buddies that they entered combat with. Then of course, we go through World War II, Korea, Vietnam – the list is long – right up to our current day.
The [modern version of the] alliance between the U.S. and Australia was actually first invoked in response to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Our Australian prime minister was visiting the U.S. at the time that the attacks occurred, and in very short order invoked the alliance and declared that Australia also was a coalition partner with the U.S. in the War on Terror. So, today in Afghanistan we have quite a large number of Australian troops, about 1,550 troops – that’s an over 40 percent increase over what we had earlier this year. They operate in Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province, and they work with the Afghan National Army units keeping the peace in this quite active area of Regional Command (South). The units that they work with in particular are the 4th Brigade, Afghan National Army, and the relationship there is developing very well and the Afghan troops are progressing very well in their training.
Also, Australia around the world has accepted an increasing responsibility to take up its share of the burden for looking after a number of global security issues. In particular, we’ve tended to accept quite a responsibility for security issues appearing in our own region. Some of the best known examples of that would be East Timor back in 1999, the Solomon Islands, and also several responses to natural disasters where Australia has taken a leading role, for instance, earthquake and tsunami relief in Indonesia. Also, we accept search-and-rescue responsibility across the Australasian region.
The relationship with the U.S. today is very broad. I’ve mentioned that we have a close relationship in operations and we certainly work well as partners for the U.S. and the coalition. We have a very close intelligence liaison between the U.S. and Australia and have a number of intelligence-related shared facilities.
On the materiel side and procurement side, Australia is a great customer of the U.S, with something like on average over the past decade the fourth-largest military sales for the U.S. In areas such as science and technology, we have very close collaboration between the U.S. and Australia. There are individual exchanges between our militaries that are working to develop trust between our forces on a daily basis. We have Australians in Army, Navy, and Air Force units over in the U.S., with the same in Australia. We have a great number of Australians who come to the U.S to undergo training and vice versa. Conversely, many Americans [military personnel] go to Australia to participate in exercises out there, with the Talisman Saber series of exercises being one of the largest.