01 Maret 2016
A P-8A Poseidon aircraft. (image : The Australian)
A substantial boost in intelligence and reconnaissance will complement a more potent strike and air combat capability unveiled in the new defence white paper.
The government also will buy its first deployable, land-based, anti-ship missiles to help protect deployed forces and offshore assets such as oil and natural gas platforms.
The paper foreshadows a larger-than-expected purchase of 15, rather than eight, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and response aircraft with ranges of more than 7500km.
To complement this surveillance and intelligence-gathering capability, seven high-altitude MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft will be purchased from the early 2020s. The Tritons, the size of a 737 jet, are able to patrol vast swaths of ocean on a single mission.
“The Triton is an unarmed, long-range, remotely piloted aircraft that will operate in our maritime environment, providing a persistent maritime patrol capability and undertaking intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks,” the paper says.
The P-8A Poseidon aircraft can be refuelled in the air and also is able to undertake offensive operations against submarines and ships.
The Tritons and Poseidons are part of a big push to give forces a more comprehensive awareness of what is happening around them. This includes enhancements to the Jindalee Operational Radar Network and a focus on electronic warfare capabilities, with the announced purchase of 12 E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and a new spy plane based on the Gulfstream G550 airframe.
All these capabilities will further support the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters when they begin arriving in Australia from 2020. As expected, the government has reconfirmed plans to purchase 72 F-35s to replace the current fleet of 71 F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.
The RAAF also has 24 F/A Super Hornets, which it acquired once it became clear the F-35 program had been delayed. It more recently announced the purchase of the 12 new Growlers.
The plan will maintain the RAAF’s desired strike and air combat capability of about 100 planes, similar to now. However, the superior capabilities of the fifth-generation F-35 will make the future air force far more potent, even though the number of warplanes will be similar.
The white paper says options to replace the Super Hornets in the late 2020s will be considered in the early 2020s, depending on technology trends, the strategic environment and progress of the F-35.
The government says it will boost investment to better connect the communications, sensor and targeting systems of various Australian Defence Force platforms, including the F-35, Wedgetail early warning aircraft, air warfare destroyers and Growlers.
“Being able to quickly exchange information, such as the location of threats, means the ADF can combine its already potent individual capabilities more effectively during joint operations, generating greater combat weight and lethality,” the paper says. It also foreshadows the purchase of two extra KC-30A air-to-air refuellers before the end of the decade, taking the total to seven, to extend the range of combat aircraft and surveillance platforms.