3 May 2013

Australia to get new jets and patrol boats

12:57 pm on 3 May 2013

Australia will acquire new advanced combat aircraft and new patrol boats under plans outlined in a new Defence White Paper issued on Friday.

The 2013 Defence White Paper also said the federal government remains committed to the advanced Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter due to enter service around 2020.

But as a hedging strategy, the RAAF will acquire 12 additional Super Hornets with electronic warfare Growler technology, taking its fleet to 36.

The government will also bring forward the replacement of the Navy's Armidale class patrol boats, which are used to intercept asylum seeker boats arriving in Australian waters.

As well, Navy supply ships HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success will be replaced as soon as possible.

AAP reports the white paper makes no commitment to acquiring advanced Hobart-class air warfare destroyers.

Nor does it make a firm decision on long-running proposals to acquire long-range surveillance drones to watch over Australia's northwest.

But Australia still plans to replace ageing AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft with Boeing P-8A aircraft and unmanned aircraft. A final decision is due later this decade.

AAP reports the White Paper is much more conciliatory towards China than the last strategy document released in 2009, which warned against China's growing military might in the Asia Pacific region.

It said Australia welcomed China's rise, which had brought positive economic benefits for Australia.

"The government does not believe that Australia must choose between its longstanding alliance with the United States and its expanding relationship with China, nor do the US and China believe we must make such a choice," the paper said.

Unlike the 2009 paper, which promised growth of 3% in Defence spending to 2017-18 and 2.2% growth out to 2030, the new document makes no funding commitments.

It says the current national fiscal environment remains challenging, with lower revenue than expected, making it more difficult to return the budget to surplus.

Statement by PM

Peace in the Indo-Pacific region is one of the key goals of the Australian Defence White Paper, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard,

Changes since the last paper in 2009 included a shift in global economic and strategic weight to the region, the renewed US focus on the pacific, Australian Defence Force drawdowns in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands and the global financial crisis.

Ms Gillard said the federal government was committed to defence spending of two per cent of annual gross domestic product (GDP).

"I want to be clear that we see this as a longer term objective as and when fiscal circumstances allow," she said in Canberra.

She said defence spending over the four year forward estimates has topped $A100 billion for the first time.