The new Defence White Paper outlines spending of up to $80 billion on land combat and amphibious warfare out to 2025–26. In terms of equipment modernisation, the plans have focused on greater protected mobility, situational awareness, aviation, firepower, and force sustainability. Those improvements are intended to enhance and broaden the armed forces combat and non-combat capacity.
These are the key proposals that the Army will procure and advance over the next decade:
- An agile procurement system for infantry soldiers that will allow for the continuous upgrade of key infantry weapons systems, personal equipment, and force protection
- New combat reconnaissance, infantry fighting, and protected mobility vehicles
- Upgrades to extend the operational lifespan of the M1 Abrams to 2035
- New armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aircraft
- The acquisition of a long-range rocket system by mid-2020 that will provide long-range fire support up to 300km to supplement the ADF’s current artillery capability
- Logistic enablers to aid the amphibious operations involving the newly acquired Canberra Class ships
- The re-establishment of Riverine Patrol capabilities, with a fleet of lightly armed boats for river and estuarine operations marked for delivery near 2022
- Special operations forces will receive a boost in wide range of capabilities which include high-end close combat capabilities, force protection, enhanced command and situational awareness networks, the acquisition and improvement of specialist transportation systems, and an armada of light reconnaissance and attack helicopters
The enhancement of combat reconnaissance, infantry fighting armoured and protected mobility fleets will address specific outstanding issues in the current capabilities. Emerging threats have rendered the Army’s M-113 armoured personnel carriers obsolete, notwithstanding an expensive upgrade program in the 2000s. Consequently, they’re slated for replacement along with the 8×8 Australian Light Armoured Vehicle armed reconnaissance vehicle, which will be replaced by new Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles around 2019.
The replacement of Army’s ‘B’ vehicle fleet is proceeding with the replace of a proportion of the existing Land Rover fleet with the locally built Hawkei protected mobility vehicle. The Hawkei will augment the successful Bushmaster fleet, which entered service over the past decade and proved its worth in Afghanistan. However, the 700 strong Bushmaster fleet is set to be replaced around 2025 upon attaining its life of type. The Armoured Personnel Carrier fleet has also been ticketed for replacement around 2024 by new Infantry Fighting Vehicles which will have superior protection, firepower and networking capabilities.
On the aviation front, the Army continues with its modernisation program. After long and troubled gestations the Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter and the MRH-90 battlefield lift helicopters are at operational capability. However continuing their troubled history, the latter is set for role-specific upgrades in support of domestic counterterrorism and the former are to be replaced by the mid-2020s by either manned, unmanned or a combination of both armed reconnaissance systems. In addition to the in-service Shadow 200 unmanned aircraft, the introduction of advanced armed, medium-altitude unmanned aircraft has been slated for the early 2020s.