The new Australian Defence Strategic Review 26/04/2023 | Fabio Di Felice

On ANZAC Day eve, Australia’s Defence Minister, Richard Marles, released the public version of the long-awaited new Australian Defence Strategic Review 2023.

The 110-page document provides guidance to execute fundamental changes to the structure of the Australian Defence Force to counter modern and emerging threats. While some projects will simply undergo a delay or re-scoping, others will get canceled, with no-negligible impacts on the emerging national defence industry. This strategic review, which has been considered the most ambitious one from the Second World War, was conducted over the last two years and acknowledged the Pacific rising tensions provoked by China and the reduced warning time for military escalation or conflict. A big turning point, considering that the last similar document (2020) was based on Australia’s traditionally held view that the nation would have a decade of warning time to prepare itself.

The new Defence Strategic Review (DSR) looks to a three-stage strategy, beginning with a two-year period between now and 2025 to address “matters which must be prioritized and addressed urgently,” a second period would follow between 2026 and 2030, and then a third “beyond 2031.” The DSR reports as critical capabilities to address as soon as possible:

Maritime drones that can perform ISR missions on the surface and underwater.

An enhanced integrated targeting capability.

Enhanced long-range precision strike weapons for all domains of warfare.

An amphibious-capable combined-arms land system.

All-domain maritime capabilities for sea-denial operations.

A networked expeditionary air operations capability.

An enhanced integrated air and missile defence system.

A joint and expeditionary theatre-logistics system.

A theatre command-and-control network.

A network of northern bases for logistics support, denial, and deterrence.

For the Royal Australian Navy, the AUKUS plan to acquire a nuclear-powered attack submarine is the focal key asset, in effecting a strategy of denial, in the provision of anti-submarine warfare and long-range strike options, and in the naval shipbuilding strategy. At this stage, there could be no impact on the service’s plans to build 9 Hunter-class frigates and the Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels. For the Australian Army, the Government will expand efforts to acquire long-range precision strike weapons (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – HIMARS), and support plans to co-develop the American-made Precision Strike Missile (PrSM).

The Army should also accelerate the Army’s littoral combat maneuver program, focused on Army Littoral Manoeuvre vessels (Land Project 8710 Phases 1 & 2 — Landing Craft Medium and Heavy), and expand the scope of this capability. The new IFV project (Land 400 Phase 3 program) has been slashed from 450 to 129 vehicles, being able to equip only a single mechanized battalion.

The Royal Australian Air Force, unanimously considered the biggest loser from the DSR, negatively collected the Government decision to “not consider the B-21 to be a suitable option for consideration for acquisition,” extending the service's long-range air strike capability gap since the retirement of the F-111C AARDVARK.

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