Australian Strategic Defence Review moves to threat-focused strategy

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announces the Defense Strategic Review at Parliament House in Canberra, 24 April, 2023.

Australia’s defence department released its long-awaited Defence Strategic Review (DSR) on 24 April 2023 that will transition the Australian Defence Force (ADF) toward a new ‘National Defence’ posture.

Under ‘National Defence’, the DSR is moving the ADF away from a “balanced force” with a wider range of military capabilities into a “focused force” specifically designed to defend Australia’s northern approaches from potential enemies, mainly China.

The DSR recognises that Australia is not protected by geographic distance as it once was and that the US is no longer the pre-eminent power in the Indo-Pacific.

To achieve National Defence the DSR will establish anti-access area denial capabilities that can more effectively monitor and strike targets at distance.

For the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) this includes the integration of the long-range anti-ship missiles and the Joint Strike Missile onto the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and the Boeing F/A-18F fighters.

For the Army, plans to get new Lockheed Martin M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System long-range missile launchers and a land-based anti-ship missile system will be accelerated. The Army will also see the acquisition of new Littoral Mission Vessels fast-tracked so that it can deploy larger formations at range into the South East Asian region.

However, an order for an additional 30 South Korean K-9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzers has been cancelled and the DSR has also drastically reduced the number of Infantry Fighting Vehicles it will buy under from 450 to just 129.

Meanwhile the impact on the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has yet to be determined. The DSR has stated that a review of its surface fleet capabilities will be assessed this year with a report to be published in Q3 2023.

Funding levels and the re-organisation of the Integrated Investment Programme that will provide more details of the wider impact of the DSR have also still to be decided.

by Tim Fish