Australia — Statement on possible acquisition of a C‑17 aircraft; China

Tran­script: Min­is­ter for Defence, Joint Press Con­fer­ence with Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel, Avalon

TOPICS: Aval­on Inter­na­tion­al Air Show; Pos­si­ble acqui­si­tion of a C‑17 air­craft; Chi­na; Car­bon price frame­work
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, thanks very much for turn­ing up. I’m very pleased to be here at the open­ing of the Aval­on Air Show, togeth­er with the Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, and also pleased to be joined by the Chief of Air Force, Mark Bin­skin.
First­ly, the Aval­on Air Show is a great thing for Aval­on. It’s a great thing for Gee­long, a great thing for Mel­bourne and Vic­to­ria, but it’s also a very impor­tant thing for Aus­tralia. The Aval­on Exhi­bi­tion and Air Show is now very much a must-do part of the avi­a­tion, aero­space, defence and Air Force cal­en­dar. So we’re very pleased to mark the begin­ning of anoth­er suc­cess­ful Aval­on week. It’s, of course, impor­tant this year because it marks also the nineti­eth anniver­sary of the cre­ation of the Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force. And I was pleased last night to make some remarks at the Chief of Air Force Sym­po­sium.

Of course, in the course of its grand 90-year his­to­ry, we’ve seen the Defence Force take part in all com­bat activ­i­ty that Aus­tralia has been engaged in since World War II. But also, we’ve seen a sac­ri­fice of lives. So, in the earn­ing of that great rep­u­ta­tion, we’ve also seen some ter­ri­ble sor­row for Aus­tralian fam­i­lies and Aus­tralian communities.

But the Air Force has dis­charged the two great oblig­a­tions of Aus­tralian Defence Force per­son­nel. First­ly, com­bat and mil­i­tary oblig­a­tions; and sec­ond­ly, human­i­tar­i­an and dis­as­ter relief. And we’ve seen that, unfor­tu­nate­ly and regret­tably, very much in the course of the first part of this year. Whether it’s been floods in Bris­bane or Ipswich, whether it’s been floods in the Lock­y­er Val­ley, or whether it’s been cyclones in North Queens­land, or ter­ri­bly, most recent­ly, the trag­ic earth­quake in Christchurch, we’ve seen Air Force effec­tive­ly come to the res­cue with heavy air­lift capa­bil­i­ty — C‑130s and C‑17s doing great work remov­ing peo­ple, for exam­ple, from the Cairns hos­pi­tal and pri­vate hos­pi­tal, and also get­ting emer­gency search and res­cue work­ers to Christchurch in less than 24 hours. So, great work.

As a result of the work that we’ve been doing this year, it’s caused us to also have a look at the make-up of our heavy air­lift. We cur­rent­ly have, as you might know, 24 C‑130s, both the H and J vari­eties, and four C‑17s. I’ve announced overnight that we’ve approached the Unit­ed States under the Unit­ed States for­eign defence sales regime to pur­chase a fur­ther C‑17.

The C‑17s, of course, are very heavy car­go lift, can fly much longer dis­tances than the C‑130s. For exam­ple, the C‑17 you see behind us could effec­tive­ly take half a dozen Bush­mas­ters or a half a dozen ambulances.

So we’ve indi­cat­ed to the Unit­ed States, and I’ve spo­ken with the Deputy Under Sec­re­tary for Air Force, Hei­di Grant, who’s here in Aval­on, of our inten­tion, our enthu­si­asm to pick up anoth­er C‑17, which we think will get the cal­i­bra­tion of our heavy air­lift right.

Our cur­rent defence capa­bil­i­ty plan would see us con­tem­plate buy­ing two more C‑130s in the mid­dle of this decade. If we pick up the C‑17 in the way in which I’ve out­lined, then it’s almost cer­tain­ly the case that we would­n’t see the need for those C‑130s. So I’ve made that announce­ment overnight.

I’d like to ask Jason to make a few remarks and then we’re hap­py to respond to your questions.

JASON CLARE: Thanks Stephen. It’s great to be here at the Aval­on Air Show, the biggest air show in Aus­tralia, and one of the most impor­tant air shows in the world.

Over the next six days, almost 200,000 peo­ple will vis­it the Air Show, and there’s more than 100 air­craft on dis­play, includ­ing the Aus­tralian Super Hor­net and the Amer­i­can F‑22 Rap­tor. It’s going to mean more than $120 mil­lion of invest­ment in the local econ­o­my. So it’s great news for Aval­on, great news for Gee­long, great news for Mel­bourne and great news for Victoria.

It’s also the per­fect place to announce our inten­tion to pur­chase a C‑17 air­craft. The C‑17s are one of the great work hors­es of the ADF, and as the Min­is­ter has men­tioned, we’ve seen them on active duty dur­ing the floods, dur­ing the recent cyclone and in Christchurch after the recent earthquake.

It was the capa­bil­i­ty of the C‑17 that allowed us to evac­u­ate the entire Cairns hos­pi­tal in one night as that cyclone, Cyclone Yasi, was loom­ing on the peo­ple of Far North Queensland.

The C‑17 also gives us glob­al reach. It gives us the capac­i­ty to deploy over­seas. So this is an impor­tant deci­sion, it gives us glob­al reach. It extends our glob­al reach and our capa­bil­i­ty to deploy over­seas, and extends our human­i­tar­i­an sup­port capa­bil­i­ty, both here in Aus­tralia and through­out the world.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Jason. 

QUESTION: Min­is­ter Smith, how much would this cost and when would it be available? 

STEPHEN SMITH: We’ve indi­cat­ed to the Unit­ed States under their for­eign mil­i­tary sales regime that we’re keen to pick it up as quick­ly as we can. Real­is­ti­cal­ly that will be in the course of this year. 

We’re effec­tive­ly doing the due dili­gence on avail­abil­i­ty, price and the like, so I’m not propos­ing to be defin­i­tive about an actu­al cost or price. It’s on the pub­lic record that when we pur­chased our four cur­rent C‑17s they cost us in the order of $2 bil­lion, so you’re talk­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars. But we think it’s val­ue for effort, val­ue for mon­ey and it cal­i­brates bet­ter, we think, the mix of our air­lift and the capa­bil­i­ty, as Jason and I have both said, a capac­i­ty for much longer dis­tances than the C‑130s and capac­i­ty also to do large tasks very quick­ly, as illus­trat­ed both in Cyclone Yasi and in Christchurch recently. 

QUESTION: Min­is­ter, has this deci­sion in any way been bought for­ward by the lack of Navy amphibi­ous capabilities?

STEPHEN SMITH: No, the two are unre­lat­ed. We’re very con­scious of the chal­lenges that we’ve got in our Navy amphibi­ous lift, and we’ve had dif­fi­cul­ties there in recent times as you would know. But there we’ve got two pri­or­i­ties. The first one is to make sure that the gap which has emerged is filled so we have a capa­bil­i­ty that’s appro­pri­ate in the run up to the arrival of the LHDs, Land­ing Heli­copter Docks, which will come from Spain and be up and run­ning by the mid­dle of this decade, 2015–2016. I’m in con­ver­sa­tion with my UK coun­ter­part, Defence Sec­re­tary Liam Fox about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of leas­ing or pur­chas­ing of A‑class from the British, and also recent­ly when I was in New Zealand had very good dis­cus­sions with Wayne Mapp, the Defence Min­is­ter from New Zealand, about clos­er coop­er­a­tion on the use in the region of their amphibi­ous lift ship, the HMNZS Can­ter­bury. In addi­tion to that we are look­ing at fur­ther options. All options are effec­tive­ly on the table so far as amphibi­ous lift is con­cerned and I hope in the near future to be in a posi­tion to make some announce­ments about that. But we treat the two sep­a­rate­ly. We haven’t had com­pa­ra­ble chal­lenges in our air capa­bil­i­ty. And we’re mak­ing the adjust­ment today in light of expe­ri­ence we’ve had in the efforts we’ve put for­ward this year, in the face of dis­as­ters both onshore and off­shore, that pick­ing up anoth­er C‑17 is the per­fect match for our air­lift capability. 

QUESTION: What was the thing that con­vinced you that it was needed? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Its capac­i­ty. It has much greater capac­i­ty than the C‑130s, and its capac­i­ty to go fur­ther dis­tances. We are a lead­ing nation in the Asia Pacif­ic. Peo­ple look to us for assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief, whether it’s earth­quakes, whether it’s tsunamis, what­ev­er it is in our region. So it gives us a capac­i­ty to fly longer dis­tances with greater and larg­er car­gos on board. So, for exam­ple, the C‑17 can effec­tive­ly trans­port an oper­at­ing the­atre, half a dozen ambu­lances, or as I said ear­li­er five or six Bushmasters. 

QUESTION: When will you replace the Cari­bou, Min­is­ter? When are you due to make a choice on that? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I nev­er get into the detail of what we pro­pose to do into the future with that def­i­n­i­tion. The Cari­bou has served us well but we need to work through our options on a replace­ment. So Jason may want to add, but we take these things step by step. I’ve made the point repeat­ed­ly as Min­is­ter for Defence, it’s very impor­tant that we get our acqui­si­tion and capa­bil­i­ty pro­cure­ment right. So we take it step by step. 

QUESTION: Do you expect the Joint Strike Fight­er to be deliv­ered on time, and are you con­cerned about any pos­si­ble capa­bil­i­ty gap? 

STEPHEN SMITH: We’re of course tran­si­tion­ing from the F1-11s through to the clas­sic Hor­nets, the Super Hor­nets, and the F‑35, the Joint Strike Fight­er. When Sec­re­tary Gates was in Mel­bourne in November/December last year for the AUSMIN talks with Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton, we spoke about his Base­line Review of the Joint Strike Fight­er, and that’s since become public.

There are two things which are very rel­e­vant for Aus­tralia: first­ly we’ve cho­sen the stan­dard, or the con­ven­tion­al vari­ant. There are many of the tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges and dif­fi­cul­ties with oth­er vari­ants, so we’re con­fi­dent that in the first instance we’ve made the cor­rect choice in terms of the vari­able type of the air­craft. Sec­ond­ly, we in our sched­ul­ing were very con­scious of the fact that this is a chal­leng­ing project, and there would inevitably be some delays to sched­ul­ing, and so we’ve tak­en account of that. We remain con­fi­dent that the Joint Strike Fight­er will be deliv­ered in accor­dance with our sched­uled timetable, and will prove, in con­junc­tion with the clas­sic Hor­net and the Super Hor­net to be a very good fit so far as our strike and con­trol of air capa­bil­i­ty is concerned.

QUESTION: How close­ly is Aus­tralia watch­ing China’s devel­op­ment of its stealth fighter?

STEPHEN SMITH: As I’ve said gen­er­al­ly about Chi­na, Chi­na as a ris­ing pow­er, as a grow­ing econ­o­my, is enti­tled to mod­ernise its mil­i­tary Defence equip­ment, it’s enti­tled to mod­ernise its mil­i­tary, but it needs to do that in a way which is trans­par­ent about its strate­gic inten­tions. And we make that point to Chi­na both pub­licly and pri­vate­ly. We remain con­fi­dent that Chi­na will emerge as a respon­si­ble stake­hold­er, or as the Chi­nese them­selves say, into a har­mo­nious environment. 

But this is the cen­tu­ry of the Asia Pacif­ic, the rise of Chi­na, the rise of India, the rise of the Asi­at­ic economies com­bined, that has sig­nif­i­cant influ­ences in our part of the world, in our region, but also inter­na­tion­al­ly. And so the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship between the great pow­ers of the Unit­ed States, Chi­na, India, will be all-impor­tant in the course of this century.

But we’re con­fi­dent that these chang­ing influ­ences can be man­aged, and con­fi­dent that Chi­na will emerge into a pos­i­tive envi­ron­ment. But like every oth­er nation, Aus­tralia believes that Chi­na should be trans­par­ent about its mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion and trans­par­ent about its strate­gic intentions.

QUESTION: Is the way it’s going about it at the moment… [indis­tinct]?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well Chi­na and India are coun­tries of a bil­lion peo­ple, Aus­tralia is a coun­try of 25 mil­lion peo­ple, and Chi­na and India and the Unit­ed States and Japan, will remain in the top four or five economies. 

Aus­tralia is a small coun­try, in terms of pop­u­la­tion, but we remain in the top 12 coun­tries so far as size and econ­o­my is con­cerned, our pros­per­i­ty is con­cerned, and also our defence and peace-keep­ing is con­cerned. So it pro­ceeds on a faulty premise to com­pare Australia’s mil­i­tary acqui­si­tions or force with Chi­na, India or the Unit­ed States. But we make an appro­pri­ate con­tri­bu­tion to our nation­al secu­ri­ty, through our Defence acqui­si­tions, as a mid­dle-sized pow­er like Aus­tralia should. 

In terms of bud­get and finances, the 2009 White Paper sets out our Force 2030, sets out our bud­get rules, and sets out our Strate­gic Reform Pro­gram. That is a big chal­lenge to the Aus­tralian Defence Force and to the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment, but we are on track to meet those ambi­tions. And I’ve made the point repeat­ed­ly, for the first time in the mod­ern era, per­haps ever, we now have those exter­nal para­me­ters around our Defence budget. 

What we need to do is to improve the inter­nal rigour, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the acqui­si­tion and pro­cure­ment area. And we’ve seen in recent times a num­ber of dif­fi­cul­ties and prob­lems emerge in the Defence acqui­si­tion area, and we’ll see some lag effects. 

My pre­de­ces­sors and Jason’s pre­de­ces­sors have made sub­stan­tial changes in try­ing to man­age risk in the Defence acqui­si­tion pro­cure­ment area. With the first class and sec­ond class approvals and the Projects of Con­cern, we believe we’ve made a range of improve­ments to min­imise the risk, but in Defence acqui­si­tions, deal­ing with dif­fi­cult projects, strate­gic inten­tions down the track, and use of cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy, we always have these chal­lenges, but we need to man­age risk much better.

QUESTION: Min­is­ter, are you con­cerned that indus­try will desert the Gov­ern­ment over the car­bon tax?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, the Prime Min­is­ter and the Min­is­ter for Cli­mate Change, Greg Com­bet, have been out today mak­ing remarks about that. We have put out our pro­pos­al. We’ve made it clear we want to do that in close con­sul­ta­tion with indus­try and with the community. 

What is very appar­ent to all con­cerned is that in the end, if we want to face up square­ly to the chal­lenges of cli­mate change, we have to put a price on car­bon, and we have to move to an emis­sions trad­ing sys­tem, that’s a mar­ket solu­tion. In my expe­ri­ence, at the end of the day indus­try always much prefers a mar­ket solu­tion, but if we are to make progress on cli­mate change, if we are to make progress on reduc­ing the amount of car­bon in the atmos­phere, we need to put a price on car­bon, we need to move to an emis­sions trad­ing sys­tem, and that’s what we’re doing.

QUESTION: [Indis­tinct] sup­port local industry?

STEPHEN SMITH: Look, in the end, what indus­try wants to do will be a mat­ter for indus­try, and what the Aus­tralian community’s judge­ment is in the end will be a mat­ter for the Aus­tralian com­mu­ni­ty, but we believe that we have to face as a nation, square­ly up to the chal­lenges of dan­ger­ous cli­mate change, and the only effec­tive way of doing that is to place a price on car­bon and to move to an emis­sions trad­ing sys­tem and a mar­ket based approach, which in my expe­ri­ence, indus­try would much pre­fer, than alter­na­tive mechanisms. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →