Australia’s Defence: Review of the Defence Strategic Review.

Australia’s Defence: Review of the Defence Strategic Review. By David Archibald.

The recently released Defence Strategic Review … was put together by people with little personal interest in defence and thus not much knowledge or understanding.

The likely reason the review was commissioned is because defence is a can that has been kicked down the road for decades and the new Labor government would have started getting briefings on what China is doing.

Using WW2 as the analogy, Ukraine is the Spanish Civil War, Taiwan is the new Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam is our generation’s Poland. We are in 1937 with a big, painful, grinding, destructive war coming.

None of our politicians have an understanding of defence. Even the ones who had senior rank in the Australian Defence Force, such has Senator Molan, had no interest in the relative merit of weapons systems such as the F-35. He was as silent as the grave on all choices of weapons systems. And because our politicians have taken no interest, the people running the department have had no adult supervision. They don’t think in terms of cost-effectiveness. They just want bright and shiny stuff with features that no other country has bothered to add to similar systems. …

What the review got right:

1. The emphasis on antiship cruise missiles. We will use a lot of these in a war with China. The more we have in stock, the safer we will be. In theory, if we have enough, we can defeat China at sea and they won’t be able to invade anyone. …

Cruise missiles are the bread and butter of modern maritime warfare, and we need to produce our own in Australia.

We also need the aircraft to deliver them. The F-35s and the Super Hornets are too short range. Our best option is to convert Boeing 737s to dropping cruise missiles. We can buy used ones of these for as little as $4 million a pop. In peacetime they would only have to fly once or twice a year.


Modern military bread-and-butter


2. Cancelling the second tranche of self-propelled howitzers. What the war in Ukraine has shown is that self-propelled howitzers are better than towed artillery in avoiding counter-battery fire, but break down too much. Wheeled howitzers on a truck body are the best solution. But the review didn’t mention wheeled howitzers.

3. The review says we should get more HIMARS missiles. The concept is good but we should shop around. The Korean Chunmoo system may be better value for money, in terms of the cost effectiveness of delivering high explosive on the battlefield. There are also Israeli systems. Also, most HIMARS have the wrong type of warhead. We should go back to a cluster munition warhead which is four times as effective as the alternate warhead the US currently uses.

The review says that we should be making missiles in Australia. Artillery is the basis of war. With a mix of missiles we can outrange the enemy’s tube artillery and save a lot of Australian lives.

4. The review recommends expanding the reserves and upgrading ports and bases in the north. This is obvious stuff that was going to happen for years now, but nothing has ever happened.

5. The review also recommends reducing the average size of the ships of our surface fleet. It didn’t mention tonnage but there is no point these days in anything larger than a frigate. If enemy ships are going to be so easy to sink, that also holds true for our own.

What the review got wrong:

1. The review mentioned global warming as a threat, which is laughable and sad. And because of their belief in global warming they didn’t mention the elephant in the room, which is Australia’s fuel security. Twenty years ago Australia had seven oil refineries, but we are now down to two. Even if we had our own oil supply we couldn’t refine it. Most of the petrol and diesel we use comes from the future war zone.

We should make all of our liquid fuel needs in Australia. But to do so would mean increasing our carbon emissions. It could be that Australia ends up being defeated in war and invaded because of that idiotic belief in global warming. …

2. The next big mistake is cutting the buy of infantry fighting vehicles from 450 to 129. The war in Ukraine shows that the era of armoured warfare isn’t over. You just need to spend about $1 million per vehicle for an Active Protection System such as the Israeli Trophy system to reduce the threat from antitank guided missiles. …

3. The next big mistake is to cut the number of combined arms brigades from three to one. This is another idiotic mistake. The era of armoured warfare isn’t over. To get anywhere on the modern battlefield you need tanks and infantry fighting vehicles supported by plenty of artillery. Trying to advance without armour results in three times the number of casualties.

In terms of actual combat effectiveness this decision will make Australia one of the smallest armies on the planet. The bigger the land army we have, the bigger the invading force has to be. If we have only one combined arms brigade, they only have to land three to defeat us. If we have 10 combined arms brigades, they have to land 30 to defeat us. We should go the other way and have at least ten combined arms brigades.

Past mistakes:

With respect to making our own cruise missiles and other things to fling at the Chinese, Australia used to have a big effort in drone and missile development based at Salisbury in South Australia. This was best known for the Jindivik target drone, which had its first flight over 70 years ago in 1952. One product from that era, the Nulka radar decoy for ships, is still in use today. That research effort was closed down in the 1970s as an economy measure. …


The Army may be getting new infantry fighting vehicles. They will be more heavily armed than the latest addition to our surface fleet weighing 40 times as much. The Royal Australian Navy is embarrassed that their profession involves killing people so they would rather have ships that are unarmed.


All of the above is just useless conjecture if we don’t have the diesel and jet fuel to keep the domestic economy going as well as fight the war. Even better if we were able to help our allies and friends – for example all the countries in the South Pacific that will grind to a halt when China’s war starts and are cut off from fuel supply. The oil companies run their operations on a just-in-time basis so we have two weeks’ worth of refined product in stock. A lot of blame for our predicament could be put on John Howard because, as prime minister, he said that it didn’t matter if Australia didn’t have its own liquid fuel supply as long as we were net energy exporters. But without liquid fuels we won’t be exporting anything, and all our tanks and ships and planes become static targets. …

Missiles are the main military competence now:

Our Department of Defence is in the position of knowing it needs to have missiles made in Australia, as all battlefield consumables should be, but only buys the offerings of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. It regards the making of missiles as akin to magic and has no knowledge of what is involved.

So when the then Liberal government decided to get into making missiles, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were selected to run the enterprise. This is putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Those companies will be rapacious, and of course progress in putting up the buildings etc. will be glacially slow. In fact there has been no progress.

There is a whole world beyond Lockheed Martin in making cruise missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, and similar things. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan makes the Type 12 truck-mounted, antiship missile with ranges up to 1,500 km. South Korea makes the Hyunmoo-3 series of land-attack cruise missiles with ranges of up to 1,500 km. That country also makes the Chunmoo surface-to-surface missiles, which are much like the HIMARS system produced by Lockheed, but already with a 150 km range. Taiwan has the Hsiung Feng family of anti-ship cruise missiles, including supersonic variants, and the Yun Feng land attack cruise missile with a range of 2,000 km.

In Singapore, ST Engineering has developed the Blue Spear anti-ship cruise missile with a range of 290 km. India, with an economy only twice the size of Australia’s, has developed a number of families of missiles, including subsonic cruise missiles, the supersonic, ramjet-powered Brahmos antiship missiles, and the solid-fuelled Agni-V ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 km. With that range it could reach Shanghai from Darwin.

Israel, with a population of only eight million, produces just about everything needed on the battlefield. Licencing terms are likely to be stiffer than those of the Asian missile producers. That is also likely to be true of the European missile companies, with the exception of Saab in Sweden.

Magic? It’s relatively easy. I know lots of Australians who could build missiles — but they are all in Silicon Valley, and view Australia as a professional wasteland but a nice place to visit.

Read it all here.