Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has welcomed guests, exhibitors, VIPs and a “veritable armada of admirals” from 39 navies to the 10th PACIFIC 2017 International Maritime Exhibition, declaring Australia was embarking on an ambitious and unprecedented program of naval shipbuilding.
Mr Turnbull said PACIFIC 2017 was a crucially important gathering at a time of enormous investment in the largest-ever peacetime upgrade to defence capabilities.
But before talking ships and the government’s plans to build 54 new warships, the Prime Minister expressed his condolences to the United States over the latest senseless act of gun violence, the mass shooting in Las Vegas which claimed at least 59 lives.
He said this was a cruel and callous attack on innocent people.
Listening to the PM’s welcome were representatives of companies and navies from around the world.
He said the government’s massive shipbuilding program would deliver 54 new vessels to tackle regional and global threats in the decades ahead.
“We are ensuring our national security while creating the certainty, the jobs and the opportunities that were missing in previous years,” he told the official conference launch.
“This is an ambitious national program well beyond what Australia has previously undertaken. The investment in new naval capabilities is a key part of our commitment to a safe and secure Australia.”
Mr Turnbull said this investment would also revitalise Australia’s heavy engineering and high-tech manufacturing capability, growing and sustaining thousands of jobs.
“This is the largest investment in our defence naval capability ever in peacetime and it is at the very forefront of technology.
“It will enable the Australian Defence Force to have the capability to conduct independent combat operations to protect our interests in our region as well as contribute to global coalition operations in support of the global rules-based order.”
As expected the Prime Minister officially announced the Navy’s nine Future Frigates would be equipped with the US Lockheed Martin Aegis combat management system (CMS).
Navy chief Vice Admiral Tim Barrett said it was clear Australia was undertaking the most ambitious recapitalisation of its naval fleet since World War 2.
“For a middle power like Australia, the capabilities that this future fleet will provide are essential to enable the modern Australian navy to deliver a fundamental national objective, that is security above, on and under the sea to advance Australia’s national interests,” he said.
Building and sustaining this fleet will be a great national enterprise, he said.
“We are increasingly coming to understand the implications of what this actually means. It means we need to look beyond the constraints imposed by our traditional ways of generating and using maritime forces,” VADM Barrett said.
“This is especially the case as some of the capability advantages that Australia has traditionally held onto and enjoyed may diminish in the coming decades.”
VADM Barrett said that meant Australia must embrace new ways of doing things, integrating innovation into the very way that we conceive, design and deliver systems and platforms.