Open ocean with rippled waters

Australia’s Contribution to Alliance Strategy for the Western Pacific, 2025-2030

This project has been funded by a Department of Defence Strategic Policy division SPGP grant. The project adopts a strategy approach linking policy to ends, ways and means to highlight potential strategy deficits in Australian, alliance and coalition defence planning for maritime operations in the western Pacific in the 2025-2030 timeframe. It does so in the context of China’s challenge to regional order, strategic competition and military-technological complications.

Selected project outputs are available below to view or download, including Issue Briefs on twelve interrelated topics of strategy and defence.

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Final project

  1. The regional, and global, geopolitical consequences of China’s quest for hegemony in East Asia and the western Pacific have yet to be fully understood in Australian policy. Chinese success would be tantamount to overturning the existing international system ordered around liberal principles.
  1. Defenders of the liberal international system, including Australia and its alliance and coalition partners, must elevate denial of Chinese hegemony to the apex of alliance/coalition policy. Comprehension of this point can only mean that national policy and strategy must be focused upon that denial objective, not vague “management” of strategic competition between China and the liberal-democratic West.
  1. China’s impatient quest for hegemony, possibly in collaboration with Russia and other fellow rogue states, means that war is increasingly possible within the 2025-2030 timeframe of this report. Planning for a war that could be geographically wide-ranging, possibly global, in scope, needs to be at the forefront of government policy considerations.
  1. The threat facing Australia primarily is one of Chinese regional hegemony, not one to the physical security of the Australian continent itself or narrowly defined Australian interests. Australian defence planning should be formulated around the need, in close collaboration with alliance/coalition partners, to strategically deny China its objectives.
  1. Taiwan is central to Beijing’s plans to achieve regional hegemony. There are sound reasons for the Western coalition, including Australia, to defend Taiwan for its own sake. However, due recognition of its importance to Chinese designs mean that the geostrategic rationale for defending the island and denying Beijing’s ability to use it as a launchpad to assert hegemony must be a pivotal element of coalition policy and strategy.
  1. The greater policy emphasis upon deterrence is valid. But deterrence by conventional means against determined great power adversaries is not necessarily reliable. Warfighting prowess, of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the broader coalition alike, is essential both to enhance deterrence credibility and to fight when deterrence fails.
  1. Australian and coalition war planning needs to place much greater emphasis upon the military methods – or ways – required to achieve strategic objectives. Concepts for new or improved warfighting methods are required at the operational level of war. These types of operational concepts must inform capability development.
  1. Both at the coalition level, and within national defence planning, the ADF should plan on a basis of having to contribute to the following six interlinked strategic objectives: 1) defence of Taiwan; 2) countering enemy naval forces and regional military bases; 3) homeland defence; 4) maintaining communications between coalition parties; 5) economic warfare; and 6) grey zone competition, in the pre-war period.
  1. Given the inherently maritime character and vast expanse of the western Pacific, both military methods and consequent ADF capabilities must be developed with a joint, integrated maritime focus, able to operate over great distances, particularly across maritime Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
  1. The ADF currently is not well attuned to the delivery of maritime operations and strategic effects over long range, in concert with coalition partners, in a high-intensity warfare environment. But identification of the types of operations, and consequent capabilities, is both necessary and possible. Many such improvements are achievable over the 2025-2030 timeframe. While impressively expensive weapons delivery platforms are not unimportant, greater emphasis ought to be given to how desired strategic effects can be generated by employing new methods and weapons quickly. 
  1. The Australian continent is well situated to act as a rear base for operations by the ADF, US forces and coalition partners. That will require enhanced effort to improve basing, logistics, maintenance and other support to combined forces.
  1. Clearly identify problem (China) and strategic objective: denying Chinese hegemony
  2. Strengthen coalition combined warfare plans, concepts, methods and capabilities
  3. Tactical, operational and capability innovation needed for new warfighting methods
  4. Fully realise construction of a joint ADF maritime strategy and integrated maritime capabilities
  5. ADF capability development to be driven by warfighting concepts (strategic ways)
  6. Basing, logistics, advanced manufacturing and other support services must be improved to support the ADF and alliance/coalition partners, especially in the rear basing area of the Australian continent
  7. Australia to function as an alliance/coalition hub for the conduct of economic warfare
  8. Canberra should establish an interdepartmental war planning committee

Ships and rocks in the sea

Submission to the Department of Defence’s Defence Strategic Review process

Access to full submission
Airplane flying
Defence ship at sea
Fighter Jet flying side ways in a grey and light sky.
Navy training near shore

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