Journal of the australian naval institute inc

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The USNS ANDREW J. HIGGINS (TAO 190) underway in Cockburn Sound. Western Australia, on 10 November. 1989 The ship was visiting as part of the USS MIDWAY Carrier Group tor seven days RlR

Photo: LS Phil Steele. RAN

Page 12 'radar. Naval lostilule November 89


Address by the Minister for Defence to the Australian Naval Institute — THE VERNON PARKER ORATION -

Canberra — 6 September 1989

It is an honour for me to have been invited by the Australian Naval Institute to give the second Vernon Parker Oration. One of the great pleasures which derive from being a Minister is the indulgence given to one's natural inclination to "talk shop" It is not exactly a secret that I do enjoy the opportunity to discuss defence issues — in which I have an abiding intellectual interest as well as a political one — with professionally informed groups such as yourselves Nor is it a secret that the members of the Australian Naval Institute have a corporate professionalism which goes far beyond a narrowly technical approach to naval matters to encompass the broader economic and strategic underpinnings of naval power

I thought it might be useful tonight if I outlined a number of ideas which reflect generally on the sea and on the ships, not perhaps from the viewpoint to which most of you are professionally accustomed as seafar­ers, but from the point of view of strategy However, before I do so I thought that I might step back slightly from these matters and say a few words about defence spending and the impact of it on wider defence policy

As the Minister responsible for Defence for close to five years it has become increasingly obvious to me that basically my job is about looking at budgets It is about trying to come to grips with the often extraordinary conse­quences of decisions we make in the financial area

To some extent this is a new phenomenon, we have an enormously more difficult task in economic management than we have ever had before For example ten years ago we would have bought the Seahawk and Blackhawk helicopters through the US Foreign Military Sales System Now we buy them direct from the manufacturers and negotiate arrangements that keep a substantial amount of the expen­diture in Australia Consequently the financial

and industrial aspects of defence are now at the forefront, with all the problems, and promises, that that entails It imposes extra­ordinary disciplines on defence ministers to make sure the system operates efficiently

The onus of managing this system will rest more with the Navy than the other two services The fact of the matter is that for the next 10 to 15 years the Navy is going to dominate the capital equipment program So our capacity to deliver an efficient defence capability is in no small measure going to be dependent on those who find themselves not so much commanding ships but commanding projects Those involved in planning arrangements and linancial arrangements both inside the Royal Australian Navy and at headquarters ADF will bear a far greater responsibility than has traditionally been the case Everything I subsequently say about naval strategy, where the faults lie. what the possibilities are, must be viewed against this background

Let me detail this background a bit further by concentrating on the financial area There are a number of ways of looking at figures on defence spending One way is to point out that we are now down to our lowest percentage of expenditure of GDP on defence since World War II Another way is to point out that we are still at 9 6 per cent ol the government's budget which is 0 2 per cent up on the Fraser year averages What these two figures suggest is this the tolerance in this country is basically at an end In other words, we are capable of sustaining and even slightly improving our share of the government spending cake, but that cake is going to be a shrinking one

However it is important to realise that our economy is growing at well over 2 5 per cent per annum in GDP terms So assuming a continuation of this growth and a reasonably stable currency, you automatically have a

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Back flow (Lett lo flight) 1 CMDR Lemon; 2 RADM Carwardlne; 3 John McMahon (ADI); 4. CMDR Agar 5. Keith Snell (SMA); 6 Owen Culley (SMA): 7 CMDR Bloomtield:

8 CMOR Dowsing

Third Row: 9. LT Delamont; 10 George Greaves; 11. Barry Nicholas (Stanilite); 12 RADM Lynam (Retd).

Second How: 13 CAPT Noble: 14 CMDR Tapley; 15 Bob Spencer (CSA); 16 Garry Seaborne (AMECON); 17 Peter Rowe (Rockwell SAIP Systems); 18 Allan Page (CSA):

19 LCDR Hawke

Front Row 20 CMDfl Torrens; 21 Samus OFarrell (Avlologlsllcs): 22 Alan Simons (GEC Marconi), 23 VADM Hudson. 24 CDRE Calloway: 25. David Harvey (Thompson

Sintra Pacific); 26 CMDR Coles: 27 LCDR Barnes

continuing decline in the defence vote as a percentage of GDP

Our ability to be realistic in the financial side of defence is but one of the areas where we are able to display a growing confidence in meeting the very substantial challenges we have before us This is as true in the devel­opment of our defence policy as it is in the development of our foreign policy, economic policy or commercial and trade policies The initiatives currently being pursued by my ministerial colleagues Keating, Evans. Duffy and Kenn. not to mention by the Prime Minister himself, are evidence of a robust and confident approach to the promotion of our national interests

In developing the maritime dimension of our national strategy, for example, it is evident that we arfi coming to terms with the fact that our maritime strategy has two distinct but com­pletely interrelated aspects

Though this may appear to be a statement of the blindingly obvious, the ability to see beyond the reactive dimension of national strategy to the need to promote the security of our strategic environment, in concert with our friends and allies, affords us insights into how we can best handle the changes occurmg around us There is no doubt that Australia's area of primary strategic interest is undergoing massive changes now and that change will be its characteristic for the next decade or more Cooperative promotion of our national inter­ests is a new and to my mind exciting dimension to Australia's national strategy.

This is perhaps nowhere more true than in the development and employment of our naval and air capabilities. Our concentration on the formidable operational demands of the sea/air gap to our north has led us to realise that our strategic security depends as much on our ability to inhibit threats from arising as it does on our ability to respond comprehensively to threats if they do arise

In developing a military strategy for the self-reliant defence of Australia, the factor which has emerged most clearly is the critical importance of effective operations in our seas and air approaches to the security of Australia and its direct interests While those lengthy approaches provide substantial natural protec­tion, Australia has significant interests in its offshore territories and maritime resources and in maintaining trade and communication links through those areas. Even more fundamen­tally, it is the ability to conduct and sustain

operations there which make the defence of the mainland manageable in any level ol conflict

Naval strategy now is far different from whal it was at the end of World War II and during the forward defence era In a sense having carriers made force structure planning all too easy for the Navy after World War II Carriers were an outstandingly successful type of ship in World War II and continued this relevance in the era of forward defence which stressed force projection and a capacity for major inter­allied operations in areas immediately adjacent to us Probably no element of our force structure was wore dependent on the require­ment that our principle allies remained forward and active m our region than the Royal Australian Navy Consequently a decision by our principle allies to lower priorities in the region — in the case of the British to move out altogether — left the Navy's force structure far more exposed than was the force structure ol the other two armed services

So the carrier debate of the 70s and 80s had an air of terrible futility about it Whether or not it was advisable for the fleet to have organic airpower was largely meaningless if you only had one carrier which was the only carrier operating in the region. There is basically no commonsense argument that could justify a naval force structure based on a carrier in the post forward defence era The debate about whether there should be a carrier in the navy was a debate that failed to acknowledge fundamental shifts in our strategic circum­stances of the previous 10 years

The carrier on its own fell between two extremes. You could never have enough ot them in the context of a country operating alone South-east Asia anyway as an area of operations with a carrier without allies was too foolhardy, and paradoxically the South Pacific was too easy Either way the priority for operations in both areas, while by no means negligible, could not be a principle driver ot our force structure

However, more importantly, what the carrier debate distorted and obscured were two critical developments that were taking place at the same time The first was the emergence of a clear set of maritime priorities in an era of self reliance and the second was a very substantial naval re-equipment program

Our strategy for the independent defence of Australia, set out clearly in the Defence of Australia 1987 policy paper, demands that we have

surveillance and intelligencecapabilitiesable

Australian Naval iiisliliiln NtWfHllWl 1M ' I0« '

to identify changes in our strategic environ­ment and to provide detailed information on activities in the maritime approaches,

  • maritime patrol and response torces able to respond to credible lorms of military pres­sure and to deny an adversary operational freedom in the sea and air approaches, and

  • tlexible. rapid reaction ground forces able to respond to any incursions onto Australian territory

The influence of the maritime environment on this approach is all too clear

Furthermore, while our strategy is essentially defensive in nature, it is by no means simply reactive and it does not exclude the use of tactical offence as an element in self defence

  • it calls for an appropriate mix of defensive and offensive capabilities.

  • it acknowledges the importance, where possible, of meeting an adversary well forward in the sea and air approaches,

  • it provides Australia with the flexibility 1o choose, as far as possible, the time and place of engagement with the adversary

The importance of maintaining air superior­ity together with the possession of significant maritime and some strategic strike capabilities is clearly acknowledged So too is the priority accorded to the protection of maritime focal areas and choke points It is there that an adversary would have the greatest opportunity and capability to threaten our trade and to strike at strategically significant targets in the adiacent littoral area

Some people consider that focal choke points are areas vaguely 12 miles offshore Irom Cairns, and 12 miles off shore from Tasmania

In tact that is not the case When we look at the physical basis of Australian trade such choke points could be seen as encompassing an area of more than 1.000 miles around the northern part of Australia and New Guinea, as well as out into the Tasman Sea and the Coral Sea. and into the Indian Ocean in both a Southerly and northerly direction They are critical choke points because they present any enemy with the greatest opportunity to threaten our trade in an unambiguously anti-Australian manner and would present an efficient ratio of targets to effort So while it is sometimes erroneously argued that the navy ought to have the capacity to go anywhere there is a ship doing business with Australia, the reality is that for an enemy to operate much outside our own focal choke points involves an enemy in a course of action which will inevitably involve other powers

Given the vastness of our maritime approaches and the range of interests which we may need to protect, the implementation

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of an effective maritime strategy imposes great demands on the Australian defence lorce The absolute prime requirement is the ability of the navy and the air force to operate together in a completely integrated way. reflecting the fact that the sea and the air constitute a single operating environment in the sorts of contin­gencies which we might credibly face

A couple of years ago. the Government set in train some profound changes to the traditional command and control arrange­ments In the context of tonight's oration, two of these changes are especially important • the appointment ot the chief of the defence

force to command the Australian defence

force, and the appointment of the joint force com­manders

These changes not only reflected a recog­nition of the need to draw together our defence capabilities in a more integrated and — dare I say it — synergistic way, but also depended on the growing recognition of the unity of our strategic approach

These changes were given a pretty thorough work-out during Kangaroo-89 K-89 was a most impressive and valuable exercise It demon­strated the competence and skills of the ADF in our northern environment, and the enor­mous strides which the ADF has taken in recent years in gearing itself to the demands of credible defence contingencies There will no doubt be many lessons'' learnt, and some of these will indicate areas where further improve­ments can be made The exercise would be less the useful it it didn't' But, overall, K-89 was a most successful exercise and. as the CDF has said, "excellent value for money"

From my point of view, I thought that the test which K-89 provided for our new command and control arrangements was extremely valuable Basically, the new structures worked well, especially at the implementation'' level I thought that our younger officers displayed a thoroughly businesslike and professional approach to the conduct of joint and combined operations, often in physically uncomfortable and difficult circumstances At a senior staff level too, Ihe arrangements demonstrated how much more effective the ADF can be when operational tasks are viewed corporately I know, of course, that there are still improve­ments to be made, and that the artificialities which an exercise scenario imposes would dissipate quickly in any real situation None­theless, we are headed in the right direction. and the ability of navy and air force to operate jointly in the maritime environment was clearly demonstrated

Changes rn command control arrangements are, of course, only one aspect of improved "jointness". The further development of the ADF as a unified defence capability depends also on important attitudinal changes This was one area where K-89 proved conclusively |ust how far we have come in so short a time The rivalries which characterised inter-service relationships in the past now exist only in the inter-service sporting arenas, where they properly belong! The capacity displayed by upwards of 25.000 personnel to make the ADF work speaks volumes for the goodwill and common-sense of our current ADF leadership and membership Their ability to transcend narrow institutional loyalties fills me with great optimism for the future.

To ensure that we can give effect to our defence strategy, the government has embarked upon a ma|or re-equipment program to develop the balanced forces necessary to meet these priority tasks Importantly, despite general economic constraints, we have not shied away from the firm decisions necessary to realise those objectives in an appropriate timescale

We have achieved a position in naval shipbuilding where, in the context of the sort of budgetary constraints I have talked about, we can have confidence in our capability to construct the sort of navy that we need

One of the reasons governments in the past tended to approve programs on a one or two-ships basis was a total lack of confidence that the Australian shipbuilding industry could deliver ships on time and at cost These fears were probably well founded, and it is only very recently, and as a result of the enormous reforms that have taken place in our ship building industry over the last two or three years, that we are able to realistically start major ship programs

The key capabilities being developed, with which you will be familiar include

  • the new construction submarines which can undertake surveillance, sea control and strategic strike operations,

  • the two additional FFG's and the ANZAC frigates These will bring the number of ma|or surface combatants into line with our vast maritime surrounds and provide far more comprehensive focal area protection, partic­ularly with embarked ASW and surveillance helicopters;

  • an enhanced mine countermeasures capa­bility drawing upon innovative concepts such as Australian developed sweeps on craft of opportunity and the locally built inshore minehunting catamaran

Importantly, emphasis is being given to addressing capability in its widest sense — not just possessing portfolio equipments but the ability to maximise and sustain their opera­tional effectiveness

Maior developments in relation to naval operations include.

  • the two-ocean navy concept, supported by HMAS Stirling and acquisition of HMAS Westralia.

  • development of indigenous industry support, particularly ability to adapt to environment, carry out repairs and maintenance — the new capacity for this on the west coast being particularly valuable;

  • use of reserve to fulfil specialist roles (eg. MCM, NCS procedures) — freeing the regular forces and major combat elements for other roles

These naval force developments are being complemented by the surveillance and air­borne capability specifically directed at protecting the sea and air approaches These include the proposed network of over the horizon radars, and the introduction of an air-to-air refuelling capability and construction of new northern airfields to support operations by the RAAF's F/A-18, F-111 and P3C aircraft

Taken together, these developments maxi­mise the flexibility and capacity of the ADF to conduct and sustain effective operations in our sea and air approaches They are an essential cornerstone for the defence of Australia as a whole

The importance of possessing an effective maritime strategy and the capabilities to implement it are underlined by recent devel­opments within the Asia-Pacific region We are facing a strategic situation which is in some respects more fluid and complex than it was in the decades following World War II when there were less players

The role of the superpowers is changing Their long standing competition for global strategic influence based on military force has become focussed largely in Europe and the North Pacific Beyond these, economic pres­sures have forced a significant change in Soviet policies Glasnost and Perestroika signal a desire at least to exert influence through a more balanced involvement in global affairs, not simply through the projection of military power

This new Soviet image, together with the economic burden of extended global military commitments, is in turn placing pressure on the United States to redefine its regional roles Not only are there calls from within the United States for its friends and allies to assume a

Journal ol The Australian Naval Inslituln NOVombOf M'' ' ,, ,-

greater part of the western security respon­sibility but tensions are emerging between the nationalist sentiments of some regional countries and the US interest in access to basing and support facilities there

While the US remains committed to the security of South-east Asia, the form of that commitment may change in the future The possibility of a US withdrawal from the Philippines raises particular concern Without similar support facilities in the region, the effectiveness of the US presence may decline The value of that presence in supporting stability in the region and limiting the potential for involvement by external powers with different strategic priorities should not be underestimated

At the same time, there has been strong economic growth among a number of medium size powers bordering the Indian and Pacific Oceans It has been accompanied by the emergence of greater confidence in their national strength and. in some cases, a concern to exert more comprehensive influence beyond their immediate borders

Importantly, from the point of view of Australia and our neighbours, it is in the maritime environment that this new found confidence is being displayed We are looking at a system of multiple centres of power not dissimilar, except for its scale and geographic character, from the European state system of the early 19th century

The three key players to emerge have been India. China and Japan Despite problems of poverty and a huge population, India has emerged as a substantial industrial power It has developed the financial, industrial and technical resources to maintain armed forces that are large and effective It has a vision of its place as the pre-eminent power in South Asia and the adjacent Indian Ocean and a concern to ensure that its interests and influence are fully protected

Particularly notable has been the growth in India s maritime capabilities While not ignor­ing its traditional land rivalries with Pakistan and China. India has developed an impressive blue water navy equipped with modern des­troyers and frigates, conventional and nuclear powered submarines and two aircraft carriers Support is provided by maritime patrol and strike aircraft Its willingness to use these capabilities was demonstrated by its recent speedy thwarting of the attempted coup in the Maldives

China loo, despite its recent domestic political turmoil, is moving steadily to modern­ise its military forces It is developing maritime capabilities able to protect its interests well into

the South China Sea As its dispute with Vietnam over sovereignty in the Spratley Islands made clear, China has the potential to exercise significant influence within Australia s own region While economic problems may slow its development, the concern to match its perceived regional role with appropriate military capabilities is unlikely to change

The substantial size and capability of Japan's defence forces, has, until recently, been obscured by their strong emphasis on immedi­ate defensive needs and the long accepted 1% cap on defence spending It is. however, the third largest defence spender in the world by virtue of its overall economic strength and plays an essential role in western strategic power in the North Pacific

While Japan's capabilities for extended power projection remain limited, its maritime capabilities are substantial — particularly in regional terms II could be expected to be concerned should another power attempt to exert influence which threatened its economic interests elsewhere in the Pacific

These developments have not been without consequences closer to Australia Regional governments have expressed concern about the motives behind Indias naval expansion Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore has raised the prospect of a potential struggle for influence among external powers should the United States withdraw from South-east Asia Recog­nition of the substantial natural resources available in maritime areas has similarly focussed the attention of our neighbours on the importance of their sea and air approaches

Regional force structures, which have traditionally given priority to ground forces, are changing emphasis Among the ASEAN nations. Malaysia is purchasing more than $2 5 billion of defence equipment from Britain, including an Oberon class submarine for crew familiarisation and ASW training. WASP helicopters and maritime strike aircraft Thailand took delivery in 1987 of two US-built harpoon-equipped frigates and plans to acquire additional frigates, mine countermea-sures vessels and ASW Corvettes Indonesia has recently acquired lour harpoon-equipped frigates and two mine countermeasures vessels Regional air defence capabilities are similarly being upgraded

We need to recognise — or I should say more accurately, re-recognise, that the stability and strategic cohesion of the region contributes directly to our own security Strategic planning has acknowledged for many years that any significant hostilities against Australia would need to develop through the maritime approaches to our north Our security is closely

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tied in with the stability of the ASEAN States in particular

Australia is a substantial power in military terms in our region We should not shy away from this, but we do need to accept that it creates certain expectations of US — partic­ularly when responses to shared security concerns are under consideration

We also need to recognise that our highest priority, maintaining military capabilities forthe defence of Australia, is very costly and demanding The more constructively we can contribute to a favourable strategic environ­ment the more manageable our own defence requirements become, particularly in resource terms.

These points are not a prescription for Australia taking a major military role well forward of our shores. The old concepts of forward defence were based on very different premises They involved not cooperative activities with regional countries but the substitution of our own capabilities for indigenous forces. Our primary combat forces were based well forward, together with those of our major allies, in regional countries We did not have the capability to defend Australia ourselves

That approach no longer has any strategic legitimacy It is beyond available resources, does not accord with regional strategic realities, and would be contrary to the priority we attach to defence self-reliance What they do highlight is the need for Australia to be prepared to contribute constructively within the region It is the important proactive element of our defence strategy which I referred to earlier

That we should consider Australia has an important role to play in this regard should come as no surprise The all-too-stark distinc­tion which has tended to be drawn in recent years between the defence of Australia and forward defence has. however, tended to obscure the quite substantial defence coop­eration which has taken place between Australia and its neighbours

Not only has Australia made a mapr contribution to the five power defence arran­gements with rvtalaysia and Singapore, but it has provided significant support on a bilateral basis to the other ASEAN countries, including Indonesia and Thailand Until recently, the focus of this cooperation has been on materiel assistance aimed at enhancing the ability of regional countries to provide for their own security.

The impressive prugiess they have made in this regard, supported by bouyant economics, has in recent years, however, brought about

a significant adjustment With the development of more advanced capabilities and the indig­enous capability to maintain them
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