Australia is looking to boost its military power in the northwest to protect its booming offshore oil and gas sector and counter new challenges from China and the Indian Ocean, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said on Wednesday.
The shift, being considered in a defence posture review, could see new amphibious assault ships and the planned Joint Strike Fighters based across Australia’s sprawling north and western coastlines, where resource companies have invested billions in offshore oil and gas projects.
Carnarvon Basin OIl Field Off Western Australia Map from Oil and Gas Journal
The posture review would also consider strategic challenges from the Indian Ocean rim and reflect the growth of military power in the Asia Pacific, although Smith said the shift was not focused on China’s rising muscle.
“We are confident China will emerge as … a responsible stakeholder. As the Chinese would say, into a harmonious environment. We are confident of that,” Smith said. “There is more than one country in the Asia Pacific.”
RAN Hobart Class Destroyer
The United States, Australia’s top strategic ally, also plans to increase its Asia Pacific presence. Smith said Australia’s review would complement a similar review under way in Washington.
Australia is considering building up to 12 new long-range submarines and has committed $7.6 billion for three powerful air warfare destroyers, due in service from 2015.
Australia is also aiming to buy 100 Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, to complement the fleet of
F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, currently based in Queensland, New South Wales and the remote Northern Territory.
The boom resource state of Western Australia has a major navy base near the capital Perth, and is home to the country’s elite Special Air Service forces, but there are no major military bases in the state’s north, facing Asia.
Landing the Big One
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Reported as Australia Plans Deploying Assault Ships to Protect its NW Shelf Oil and Gas Assets: