Australia’s enduring alliance with the United States is a crucial force multiplier
At a time of increasing uncertainty in our region, Australia’s enduring alliance with the United States will continue to act as a crucial force multiplier for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
In the maritime domain and as participating units of a coalition task group, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) must strive to maintain the highest level of interoperability with the US Navy (USN) and allied forces; not only to support our continued maritime security, but to amplify power projection across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
According to Secretary of the USN Ray Mabus, recent deployments by the USN to this region have demonstrated that nation's ongoing commitment to maintaining this important alliance.
Similarly, the pending Australian Government 2015 Defence White Paper will reinforce this geo-political influence and identify the consequential need for coalition inter-operability between Australian and US security forces.
Former Australian Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews reinforced this stance during his recent address to the US Chamber of Commerce, saying “access to the most advanced technology and equipment from the United States and maintaining inter-operability with the United States is central to maintaining the ADF’s potency.”
With respect to Australia's Future Surface Fleet, this will amount to important considerations for the future of the RAN’s mission systems.
In the context of Australia’s future fleet of frigates, such capability would not only significantly enhance fleet force protection but support operational diversity. This ranges from aiding in low-level constabulary operations right through to commanding a task group in high-end warfare.
To enable this type of capability, the fleet will draw on evolving secure military networking technologies such as the USN’s Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air capability, utilising sensor-netting technologies such as Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and Data Link 16. Together, these technologies provide greater intelligence and situational awareness to each fleet unit and, if gridlocked between the RAN and USN would allow coalition assets and their munitions to be integrated into a networked force.
While there is a strong case for the strategic benefits mission system alignment and a US alliance would provide, the argument is equally strong for the significant cost saving effects associated with a joint venture. In addition, this includes evolving Australia’s future surface fleet to accommodate the next generation of USN weapons.
By sharing weapons such as Mk-48 and Mk-54 Torpedos and the USN’s standard missile family – the SM-2 and SM-6, the RAN will not only be assured unfettered access to supporting munitions but reap the rewards associated with significant reductions in weapon certification costs.
Should the RAN pursue mission system inter-operability and shared weapon systems, they would succeed in establishing Australia’s future fleet as a force structure defined by its technological might over one based on numerical advantage.
Doing so will not only result in greater force protection for the RAN fleet of surface combatants and those of allied task groups, but enhance national defence through a low-risk, low-cost and demonstrated capability.