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Defending Down Under

It can't be done on a shoestring.

By Christopher Marlowe  |  July 30, 2009

Editor's Note: Marlowe has been seriously ill which is why he's been intermittently absent from our (web) pages.  We welcome him back and hope that he stays well.

We Australians been ill-served by our own governments regardless of party, when it comes to equipping our armed forces.  There have been so many scandalous projects, rotten with corruption and yet no one appears in court.

The RAAF has been sold a so-called Super Hornet, a variation of the FA 18 which is a stopgap measure until the J-35 is produced.  There is a nagging little voice somewhere in the back of my head which tells me that it is entirely possible that the J-35 will never be produced in great numbers for the US Armed Forces, especially as we observe the extremely rapid development of pilot-less aircraft.  Not having to rescue a pilot when a plane goes down over enemy territory is an inestimable advantage politically, and all modern wars are far more political acts than acts of war, it now seems.

A friend of mine who was formerly with our air force has said that in today's air wars, a fighter does not see the enemy.  A bogey is detected and if it doesn't have the right Friend or Foe signature, then it can be swatted from miles away and not seem at all, except for the smoke.  If the pilot never sees the enemy anyway, why have a pilot?  The plane flies further and faster without one.

As a result of politics in defense and the role played by academics, especially on the left, this huge country needs what it can't afford.  The first is the F-22 which is apparently unrivaled as an air superiority fighter and secondly, both our major political parties lie to the electorate about submarines.

At present we have 6 diesel-electric boats built in this country and based on an expanded Swedish design. I have been told by someone who knows that this was a corrupt project from the beginning. Instead of fiddling around with Swedish designs - boats that were made essentially for the Baltic Sea and areas of the Arctic - we should have gone to companies that know how to build submarines. The crews are too frightened to dive deep in the bloody things and there have been one or two near disasters.

If you look at a map of the southern hemisphere, it is abundantly clear that we do not need diesel submarines - we need nuclear powered submarines for long-range cruises and patrols.  The antinuclear movement in Australia is so strong that the Defense Department has been cowed along with politicians into rejecting nuclear submarines.  Greenpeace and the old Soviet front organizations kept the campaign going.

It is my understanding that the last of the General Electric Co submarines were very good and of course, the purist would suggest that it makes sense to consult those who made U-boats and still do. If we lack a government without the guts to seek nuclear boats from the US, then we will be unable to defend our coasts.

It is a sad day when we have a lousy six submarines with such a massive continent to defend and yet we can only crew three at a given time.  Furthermore, out of the six boats, there are always at least two out of the water for repairs or re-conditioning.  The brave men of our submarine service receive over $AUD75,000 on top of their regular pay to sail in submarines.

It is my considered opinion that given the state of politics generally, we could do worse than ask for lend-lease of modern US nuclear attack submarines - not boomers because all hell would break loose - and the only other alternative is to offer more home porting for the U.S. Navy.

Sometimes I get rather annoyed when the media refers to the US and its allies around the world and Australia is missing.  The old USSR regarded Australia as the strategic hinterland to Asia and while the Russian navy is presently rebuilding, their geo-politicians still view the world in much the same way as the Politburo.  I am and have been appalled at  the way the US administration is playing footsie with the Russians; this does not bode well for either the United States or for Australia.