The long-awaited 2016 Defence White Paper has committed the Turnbull government to a “fully costed” Integrated Investment Program for Defence that will see $195 billion spent over the next 10 years on capabilities ranging from submarines and ships to “key enablers” such as infrastructure, logistics, training and IT.
Headlining the capability acquisitions is the federal government’s reaffirmation of a 12-boat Future Submarine program via a “rolling acquisition” program, plus a continuous build program for nine Future Frigates and 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels.
In all, around 25 per cent of Defence capability expenditure through to 2025-26 will be on “maritime operations and anti-submarine warfare”, which will see the acquisition of 15 P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft (up from eight currently approved) and new ship-based tactical unmanned aircraft.
“Land combat and amphibious warfare” capabilities will account for 18 per cent of capability expenditures. Highlights include early replacement of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter in the mid-2020s, new armed unmanned aircraft, upgrades for the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, and new combat reconnaissance, infantry fighting and protected mobility vehicles.
In addition to replacing the Tiger helicopters, the White Paper also commits to a “fleet of light reconnaissance and attack helicopters” for Special Forces.
Spending on “strike and air combat” capabilities accounts for 17 per cent of capability expenditures and includes the 72 previously approved F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, plus new air-to-air, air-to-ground and “long-range strike” and anti-ship missiles.
“Air and sea lift” capabilities will see the “longer-term” consideration of another two extra KC-30A tanker transports (which would take the total fleet to nine), as well as the consideration of “further additional heavy airlift capacity at a later stage”, on top of the eight C-17A transports already acquired.
Another nine per cent of Defence capability expenditure will be on ISR, space, EW and cyber capabilities, including seven MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft and a “new long-range electronic warfare support capability” using up to five modified Gulfstream G550 aircraft.
Finally, around 25 per cent of capability expenditure will be spent on “key enablers” such as upgrades for infrastructure, like bases, weapons and training ranges, IT, simulation, science and technology, and health services.
The 10-year timeframe of the White Paper will see Defence spending increase from $32.2 billion in 2016-17 to a projected $58.7 billion in 2025-26, on the way passing the government’s two per cent of GDP target in financial year 2020-21.