A new report issues a warning that the efforts Australia is making to create and deploy its missile lack the credibility necessary to serve as a conflict prevention tool unless the United States supports them.
According to the findings of the report that was compiled and distributed by the Australian Army Research Centre, the government of Australia has expressed a desire to boost the “self-reliance” of the country.
However, the report contends that Australia’s long-range attack capabilities offer little value as an instrument to deter an aggressor because they only impose expense without altering the course of a fight in any way.
The term “forward presence,” which refers to the stationing of armed personnel in regions that are not within the main territory of a country in order to serve national interests, is investigated in this study.
The researchers from the Australian National University, Dr. Andrew Carr and Prof. Stephan Fruhling, observe in their article that the forward presence of military forces to deter an adversary was “rare in Australian strategic history.” The only exception to this was commitments made during the cold war era to try to stem the rise of communism in south-east Asia.
Richard Marles, Australia’s Minister of Defense, has made the argument on multiple occasions that the country’s defense “doesn’t mean much without the security of our region and a settled global rules-based order.”
The prospect of a direct invasion of Australia was described as “remote” in the government’s defense strategy review, which was published in April. Despite this, the assessment stated that the country “must contribute to maintenance of regional balance of power in the Indo-Pacific that is favorable to our interests.”
The evaluation stated that the army should be “optimized for littoral operations in our northern land and maritime spaces and provide a long-range strike capability,” despite the fact that many of the details have not yet been finalized.
The evaluation provided support for the government’s decision to acquire Himars “and its associated missiles,” while also providing support for the co-development and speedy acquisition of Lockheed Martin’s Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), which has a range of up to 500 kilometers.
According to Carr and Fruhling, the anticipated forward presence of the army will make use of “long-range land-based anti-air and anti-ship missile weapon systems that are yet to be acquired and will represent a new capability that will rely significantly on joint, external targeting networks.”
They acknowledged that land-based strikes had a part to play in the overall strategy, but they disagreed with the growing trend to associate deterrence with the strike capabilities of Australia, arguing that this assumption “represents a rather narrow view.”
“emerging ideas about a self-reliant deterrence framework focused on long-range strike” are met with skepticism by the writers. They stated that the capabilities of Australia would not have much of an impact without the cooperation of the United States and other partners.
“A ‘tripwire’ posture that merely imposes cost through strike, but does not change the outcome, suffers from the same credibility issues as any punishment-based threat,” they said. “A ‘tripwire’ posture that merely imposes cost through strike, but does not change the outcome, suffers from the same credibility issues.”
“To execute it in the situation of deterrence failure would risk further escalation for no prospect of gain and throwing more forces into a lost cause,” the author writes. “This concern would be most acute for the side that would have the least ability to replenish small forces.”
In addition to this, the paper examines a number of hypothetical scenarios, one of which involves the deployment of Australian troops to the island of Palawan in the Philippines in order to assist that nation in withstanding the growing political and military pressure from China.
However, it issues a warning that if this scenario were to play out, Australia and the Philippines would need to be clear about their red lines in order to avoid “tension between the partners that could be exploited” by Beijing in the case of a crisis.
The question posed by the writers is as follows: “If the Chinese navy attacked a Philippines naval vessel in the South China Sea, would Australia be willing to use long-range missiles from Palawan to help?”
“If this is not the case, it may be best to avoid the forward deployment of such forces on a permanent basis and instead focus on capabilities that are more clearly aligned to the limits of Australia’s commitment to the defense of Philippine territory,” the author writes. “In this case, it may be preferable to eschew the forward deployment of such forces on a permanent basis.”
In addition to this, they stated that the traditional duty of the army, which is to capture and maintain territory, “remains crucial even as Australian defense policy enters an era of deterrence.”
“For instance, modern warfare places a premium on mobility and dispersion as key operational characteristics to ensure survivability,” they said. “This is done to ensure that forces are spread out across a larger area.”
“However, in order to achieve their political objectives, deterrence and reassurance may require the visibility of forces and the assurance that they know where to find each other.”
On Thursday evening, the report was presented for the first time at ANU by Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, who is the Chief of Army. Although it is intended to stimulate discussion, the paper does not represent any official position.