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Oz defence to get $25 bn to spend on digital defences

The big brass begging bowl gets another refill

By Richard Chirgwin, 23 Feb 2016

Australia has reiterated its commitment to the Toothless Tiger Moth, with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing an expansion of defence capital and personnel.

Ahead of the long-awaited defence white paper, due for release this week, the federal government has said it will meet former prime minister Tony Abbott's promise to lift spending to two per cent of GDP by 2023.

Most of the spending, including orders for the over-time, over-budget, underpowered and ill-coded Joint Strike Fighter, is already built into the budget: there are also a dozen new submarines to buy, new frigates and offshore combat vessels, a new armoured vehicle fleet, and weapons upgrades for the army.

The capital commitments amount to around AU$100bn, and in a paywalled report, the Daily Telegraph reckons 25 billion will go towards cyber-defence, satellite systems, electronic warfare, and drones.

Speaking of drones, when the defence white paper goes "clunk" on the dispatch table in Canberra on Thursday, there'll also be a promise to recruit 5,000 additional personnel to the Australian Defence Force.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been a controversial purchase from the get-go, and that's showing no signs of letting up. Noted journal of record The Cooma-Monaro Express reports that a US defence official in the country to speak to a Senate inquiry into the purchase, Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, says the fighter is more noisy at take-off and landing than its predecessor, the F-18 Hornet, something which will make for an uneasy relationship between the Air Force and its civilian neighbours at the Williamtown air base.

On Sunday, the lieutenant general told reporters in Darwin: "Software on the program is a big risk, our maintenance information system ... is troublesome; it's behind schedule and it's got problems that cause maintainers to do a lot of things they don't want to do."

However, he still reckons the JSF's problems will be ironed out, and that as production ramps up, the fighter's US$106m price tag should drop to about $85m by 2018. ®

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