About Me

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The Author Erik’s family emigrated from Britain to the island State of Tasmania then lived in the woods. The family home schooled, helping to pioneer the home education movement in Australia. The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Why Environmentalists Should Care about Defence

So why have I just posted five articles on Australia’s vulnerability to invasion on a left leaning environmentalist blog? The answer quite simply, is that you can only protect what you can defend; be it the environment, human rights, or any other value.


On the rare occasions that environmentalists talk about Defence it is usually in an eye rolling ‘I can’t believe they spend so much money on this stuff for no reason’ kind of way. This is usually followed by concerns over disposal of toxic stuff (aircraft fuel, depleted uranium rounds, spent nuclear rods etc), the effects of sonar on whales, and sometimes a grudging aside that the military can be helpful in disaster relief because they have lots of helicopters…and that’s about it. This was, more or less, the response I got from Christine Milne when I spoke to her recently at a celebration of the World Heritage Area extension, (that’s the one Abbott wants to repeal, and which environmentalists have been fighting for since 1973). The Greens have a Defence Policy but it is really just a statement of principles and lacks any real substance.

Underlying this intellectual sloth is a kind of unspoken assumption that if we (rich Western people) were nicer to the rest of the world wars wouldn’t happen, so we wouldn’t need to worry about defence. Didn’t work so well for the Celts when the Romans showed up, or too well for the Romans when the Goths showed up but hey…. After spending five years trying to even talk to any Green politician about Defence without success I have given up.

With all respect to the eco-anarchists, if you want national parks, marine reserves, restrictions on extractive activity etc, you need a nation state that is able and willing to enforce those restrictions. It really doesn’t matter how many marine reserves Australia declares in the Coral Sea, if there is no naval presence, international fishing interests will just keep fishing.

War is indeed unhealthy for children and other living things but war is a fact. In 1985 an Indonesian official bluntly asked Kim Beazley what Australia would do if Indonesia invaded Papua New Guinea. Beazley to his credit said that we would fight to the last man. A key reason why Indonesia did not invade PNG, and did not send its army against UN forces in Timor Leste, is because we had the F-111 bomber (that was so beloved of Beazley). Now we don’t and on current trends Australia will not be able to defend PNG in 2030. What of human rights? What of PNG’s super diverse environment? Why do the Greens and the Left generally oppose Australia having an offensive military capability? What exactly do they think will happen?

Facing no serious military threat to their existence most Western nations now see military matters in terms of policing, and coalition operations against developing nations. Australia does not have that luxury. It’s an uncomfortable and unacknowledged truth that the greatest threat to our natural treasures may not be global warming, but Javanese expansionism. Invasion is the ultimate form of privatisation. War is trade by other means.

So is there any real possibility that the Javanese empire (aka Indonesia) could extend their transmigration program to Australia, or as Indonesian generals prefer to call it “Iryan Selatan” or “South Iryan”? The future intentions of any nation, and the Javanese in-particular, are inscrutable. What the preceding five articles show is that, on current trends, invasion is possible. If we do not build a defence force that provides a reasonable power balance, we put at risk both ourselves and the smaller countries to our north and east. It’s time the Left and the Greens in-particular grew up, left the ideological sand-pit, and started dealing with the world as it really is.

Indonesian special forces with the bodies of the GAM guerrillas they killed. Photogaph taken near Nasi Besar Island in May 2003. While Australian politicians and Defence bureaucrats play their little games, the Indonesians play for real.

Tag line: Greens security policy, Christine Milne, Australian defence policy, pacifism, ABRI, TNI, transmigration, human rights Iryan Jaya, human rights Timor Leste, F-111 bomber, PNG security, Pacifc Rim security and strategic policy.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Deterring Invasion – towards an evidence-based defence strategy for Australia

The previous four articles considered how Australia would fare in a war with Indonesia circa 2030 based on current trends. These articles found that Australia would be convincingly defeated in a high tempo conventional war based on known facts and reasonable projections. Further, the assumptions in the articles were weighted in Australia’s favour and did not allow for the likely proliferation of stealth fighters, cruise missiles and ISR capabilities across South East Asia.

This article considers what, in light of this, the ADF needs in order to deter regional aggression and to ensure victory in the event of open conflict with our northern neighbour.


PAK-FA deadlier than anything in the Western air inventory except the F-22. Arriving in our backyard soon.

Structural Change

After a decade of wasted opportunities and tragic bungles Defence is now demonstrably incapable of evidence based rational defence planning or acquisition. A recent list of debacles includes:

  • retiring the F-111 based on known untruths about its maintainability;
  • ordering the Joint Strike Fighter without reference to price, delivery schedule, capability, or reference threats;
  • ordering the Superhornet as a gap filler without reference to capability or reference threats;
  • repeating known untruths to Parliament;
  • repeating known untruths to the Minister;
  • failing to maintain the Collins submarines in a reasonable state of operational readiness;
  • failing to acknowledge the existence of Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft; and
  • ordering anti-submarine torpedoes from a European consortium but failing to check that the instruction manuals were in English.
While some of these decisions were ultimately made by government they were made based on advice from, and in some cases long running campaigns by, the Defence bureaucracy.

In the short term this institutionalised incompetence and intellectual vacuity can be turned around only if independent expert boards reporting to the Minister and to Parliament are established to critique Defence analysis, and provide alternative analysis, questions, and direction.

In the longer term the current leadership of Defence needs to be replaced with individuals with relevant technical qualifications and operational experience. There have been numerous reports into how to better structure Defence, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this blog.


Depicted is a consequence of replacing analysis with supposition - the Fall of Singapore

Air Power

Ultimately choosing an air power platform is a matter for experts but some observations can be made here. The evolved Sukhoi is now the baseline for air power in the Asia Pacific. The only aircraft that can reliably shoot down a late model evolved Sukhoi is a late model evolved Sukhoi. In a rational universe the RAAF would be crying-out for large numbers of these affordable aircraft, and to be a follow on customer for the Indo/Russian PAK-FA stealth version of that aircraft. Indeed, in the ‘stealth on stealth’ multipolar world of coming decades only nations with stealth aircraft in the class of the PAK-FA, J-22 or F-22 can guarantee their security without a nuclear deterrence. The JSF has no relevance to this environment (see further here and here). Air Power Australia cites a loss exchange ratio of 50 'legacy' aircraft including the Superhornet for one PAK-FA. The loss exchange ratio against the JSF is quoted as exceeding 4:1 in favour of the PAK-FA. (Note that this analysis is now a little dated and the known deficiencies in the JSF program will push the exchange ratio higher in favour of the PAK-FA).

However it seems that for emotional and diplomatic reasons no one in the Defence community and no Australian government will ever buy military equipment from Russia.

The American F-22 Raptor is in many respects the superlative combat aircraft of our time enjoying all aspect stealth, thrust vectoring, and a respectable weapons load. Unfortunately production was stopped short of  200 units. Even if Australia were to acquire some, supportability would become an issue in the longer term unless the Americans were to re-start the assembly line and commence building significant numbers of these aircraft. Who knows whether this will happen, and time is running out to replace the RAAF’s legacy Hornets.

As noted previously, neither the Joint Strike Fighter nor the Superhornet are survivable in the air power environment of the Asia Pacific now, far less in 2030. For some recent 'Deep Throat' revelations on the Joint Strike Fighter that were published in Vanity Fair, see here.

That leaves Australia with a choice of the F-15 series which is still in production (Korea purchased the F-15K), and the Euro canards. The F-15 is not a match for the Sukhoi but is a twin engine Mach 2+ modern combat aircraft. In sufficient numbers it could make life difficult for Indonesian Sukhois, more so if recent difficulties with the standard USAF air-to-air missile (AIM-120 series) are fixed.

Of the Euro canards there are three. Of these one stands out for affordability, sustainability, and a growth path that includes supercruise (the capacity for sustained supersonic flight without the use of afterburners). That is the Swedish JAS Gripen which also has the distinction of being able to land and take-off on short strips of road, and maintain a high tempo of operation. One of the attractions of the Euro canards is the superiority of European air-to-air missiles over those carried by US aircraft. See further http://www.saabgroup.com/en/Air/Gripen-Fighter-System/

For countries with limited budgets mobile surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) provide an affordable force multiplier to aircraft. When integrated with ground based radar, AEWACs and fighter planes, you have what is called an ‘integrated air defence system’ or ‘IADS’. This is the smartest and most affordable approach for defence of Australia’s military and economics assets across the north – far more so than investing in very expensive air warfare destroyers.

So on my reckoning an effective RAAF could field 72 JAS Gripen from hardened air fields and dispersed runways across northern Australia in addition to around 36 twin engine interceptors. Ideally these would be the PAK-FA or if circumstances allowed, the F-22. If neither of these is possible the next best option is the F-15. These would be supplemented by mobile SAM systems protecting land forces, military bases, airfields, and key industrial assets. This force is affordable, deployable, available, flexible and deadly.

What about the Superhornets and JSF? Australia is committed to the purchase of 14 JSF. Since that aircraft has no operational relevance, the best thing we could do is sell them back to the Americans at half the price and claw back some money. The Superhornets on the other hand could occupy niche roles. As a naval platform they are designed for naval strike and could be fielded in that role. They might also fill a role in tanker and AEWACs escort. As a second tier ‘second day of war’ plane they could usefully be tasked to the close air support role. This would help fill some gaps in the ADF force structure, namely lack of modern artillery, lack of land missiles, and lack of armour. They could conceivably come under command of the Australian Army.

Sea Power

The defence of Australia will occur on, over, and under the shallow waters to our north. That requires investment in 8-10 ‘off the shelf’ conventional European subs based in Northern Australia. If Australia wishes to obtain a capability to engage in military operations in the Northern hemisphere or to hold at risk sea lanes far afield for extended periods, an ‘off-the-shelf’ purchase of the US Virginia class nuclear attack submarine fills that niche with none of the expense and risk of a home built/modified machine. A combined force of conventional and nuclear subs allows Australia to operate each capability to its maximum advantage. Further, if one platform develops a problem the whole fleet is not lost. Investment in a capable submarine force and capable air force obviates the need for expensive surface combat vessels. The Air Warfare Destroyers should be sold off. Australia’s need in surface vessels is primarily for anti-submarine warfare and border protection which calls for modern frigates.

Land Power

To a large extent investment in a capable submarine force and capable air force means savings can be made to land forces as well, if it is assumed that invasion could be stopped short of Australian soil. However it is self-evident that ongoing support is needed to see the ADF land forces ‘hardened and networked’. Further investment in C3I capability will be needed to fully realise the potential of new and existing ADF platforms.

It would make good sense in light of planned acquisitions by the TNI to replace the oldest ASLAVs with a wheeled platform that carries either a tank killing artillery piece or capable anti-tank missiles. This would also add useful capabilities to counter insurgency operations.


Italian light tank – one of several tank killing platforms that would be relevant to Australia.

In addition to an integrated air defence system, it is time defence planners thought seriously about mobile air defence for deployed ADF land forces using a platform such as Pantsyr . The days of assumed air superiority and battlefield intelligence superiority are over.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

If defence acquisition continues as presently planned, or goes in the direction advocated by the Left, Australia will have no conventional means to stop coercive diplomacy or invasion. In that event our choices are few and unpleasant. Nations like Syria or Norway that cannot deter a more powerful aggressor through conventional means have two choices. One is an armed population organised around mass popular resistance supported by a small professional army that can imbed itself in the population. That is the option Norway has chosen. The other is to invest in WMD – biological, chemical, and nuclear agents in order to deter an aggressor. That is the path taken by Syria and Pakistan. I am not advocating either option. I am just pointing out that this is the only alternative for nations unwilling or unable to field a credible military capability. Australia is currently one of those nations.

The good news is that Australia can build a flexible and affordable force capable of safeguarding regional stability – but it can only do so if it considers the evidence.


As a middle ranking power Canada has similar defence challenges to Australia but the level of debate and public engagement is much higher. For a detailed analysis of comparative aircraft options see these well researched articles:

Those looking for Australian content will find more on this blog here:

and here

For further analysis on an alternative path for the ADF see the following sponsored links:

Tag line: Australian military strategy, Australian army, network and harden ADF, Land 117, JSF RAAF, Superhornet RAAF, Joint Strike Fighter Pacific, Defence force reform, TNI, ABRI, Indonesian military.



Monday, 23 September 2013

How Australia Lost the War of 2030 - Conclusion

The previous three articles considered how Australia would fare in a war with Indonesia circa 2030 based on current trends. These articles found that Australia would be convincingly defeated in a high tempo conventional war based on known facts and reasonable projections.


Does nasty things to Joint Strike Fighters – the Indo/Russion PAK-FA

Despite the warnings of academics and subject matter experts Defence and a revolving door of Defence Ministers continue to live in a fantasy land. In this parallel reality the Joint Strike Fighter is a superlative combat aircraft that can defeat all future threats, the TNI is a primitive third world force – the kind that we defeated in Iraq but less equipped. Russia is still the enemy and Russian equipment is always inferior. The army is only really needed for low intensity conflicts in far-away places, not for national defence; and our real security lies in the US alliance. Indonesia is a future ally against China not a peer threat. None of these beliefs are true. However they have resulted in an acquisition path which will leave Australia unable to project force, defend its near neighbours or guarantee its national sovereignty. Further, that path is not fiscally sustainable so further inadequacies are inevitable.


A plane for pilots to die in – the Joint Strike Fighter

The Left of Australian society are even more disconnected from reality when it comes to defence issues. They see the strategic environment of the next three decades as essentially benign. A senior policy analyst for a central government agency once told me that if Australia spent more on foreign aid it wouldn’t need a military. While regional instability is sometimes acknowledged it is assumed that Australia’s role is to assist in policing or UN stabilisation missions, and to offer a home to the human overflow that washes up on our shores. The lessons of World War Two have been entirely forgotten.

 In this context Australian defence planning is exactly where it was in 1938. Then it was assumed that Asians were racially inferior, could never develop a military capability to defeat Western nations, and no one would dare to attack both the British Empire and American interests in the Pacific. Consequently Australia ignored the military rise of Japan and invested in irrelevant and out dated military capabilities. As a result we came close to being overrun.

 Today South East Asia is in the grip of an arms race, fuelled in part by the rise of China. This arms race is not a temporary shopping spree but a long term trend towards developing modern, balanced and supported military forces fielding world’s best equipment. The fact is that poor countries can develop formidable military capabilities very quickly. Australia has proven itself unable to do so, but continues to invest in irrelevant platforms like the Joint Strike Fighter while assuming that no one would ever threaten Western allies in the Pacific. This reveals an underlying racism in Defence’s attitude to regional capabilities. As a result we have a gold plated train wreck with potentially tragic consequences.

The scenario modelled in the previous articles is weighted heavily in Australia’s favour. In coming decades South East Asian nations will invest in top tier ISR capabilities including UAVs, and air borne early warning and control aircraft that are equivalent or superior to Australia’s Wedgetail. Cruise missiles will be standard inventory items, may be manufactured locally under licence, and may include stealth features. Existing Sukhoi customers such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam will in coming decades be flying the PAK-FA stealth fighter which comprehensively defeats every aircraft in the Western World except the F-22. China will be mass manufacturing a larger navalised stealth fighter bomber the J-20, which also comprehensively defeats every aircraft in the Western World except the F-22. As mentioned previously, the F-22 is out of production – shut down to release more funds for the Cuckoo in the defence funding nest – the Joint Strike Fighter.

 In the next post I consider an alternative path. This path provides Australia with an affordable, supportable, and balance military that can counterbalance the exponential growth in regional capabilities.

Tag line: Australian defence strategy, Joint Stike Fighter, TNI, ABRI, Sukhoi, PAK-FA, T-50, J-20, stealth aircraft, Pacific Rim defence, Defence White Paper

Thursday, 19 September 2013

How Australia Lost the War of 2030 - Part 3

The Land War

In a previous article I speculated that global financial difficulties could impose severe hardship on poor countries that are not self-sufficient in food or fuel. This could, given the right circumstances, lead to war on our doorstep and even invasion.

While no one knows the future we can make real world predictions about how a conflict with our northern neighbour might play out based on the current known strategy and the military acquisition paths of both nations.  In the previous two articles I examined the air war and then the sea war. These articles found that Australia would lose convincingly in a conflict with the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) on current trends post 2030. This article considers the subsequent land war in this scenario.

Force the surrender of opposing ground forces

Let’s for a moment take air power out of the equation. Perhaps both sides have air parity, or perhaps Australia has invested in mobile surface to air missile systems that provide theatre air cover for the army (NB: there are no current plans to do so). How do the ground forces stack up?


The primary weapon of ground forces is the main battle tank. Australia has 59 second hand American Abrams main battle tanks. Due to budget constraints some have recently been put into storage. Indonesia has or will acquire between 100 and 200 ex NATO Leopard tanks of similar vintage. The two are roughly equivalent since both were designed to defeat Soviet armour. Either way, Australia is outnumbered close to 2:1 or 4:1. Without tanks, any other armour Australia has is irrelevant unless Australia were to invest in another tank killing platform such as the Italian light tank when it considers replacing the older ASLAVs. [Ed note: since this was written Indonesia has signed a contract with Germany for purchase of 103 Leopard tanks and associated equipment and has begun taking delivery. This is in addition to its existing inventory of light armour.]


Australia is currently taking delivery of a fleet of 22 'Tiger' helicopter gunships. These are significant force multipliers carrying two anti-tank missiles each in addition to rockets and cannon. Indonesia currently has no such capability but is on the market for helicopter gunships including the American Apache. That’s an interesting choice because the Apache is a dedicated tank killer designed from the outset to defeat massed attacks by Soviet armour. In other words, you only buy an Apache if you want to engage in nation state conflicts with countries that own main battle tanks. In the local context, that means Australia and Malaysia.

Note that helicopters are not survivable in a contested air environment and Australian helicopters would be easy prey to opposing combat aircraft including ground attack aircraft of which Indonesia intents to own 80 – 36 Hawker, 12 F5E, 16 Tucano and 16 Yak aircraft.


The Apache attack helicopter being sought by the TNI


Australia has replaced its towed artillery but has put on-hold investment in modern mobile artillery/rocket systems. Indonesia is pressing ahead with modern investments in this area including the French Caesar system. The Caesar long range mobile artillery system being acquired by TNI. Australia has no equivalent. See further here


Australia has 80,000 infantry including reserves. Reliable statistics for the TNI are difficult to come by but it appears Indonesia has around 470,000 soldiers of which at least 180,000 are ‘front line’ professional soldiers. Depending on how many troops can be moved and how many needs stay at home we get odds of between 2:1 and 5:1 which doesn’t sound particularly promising. Currently Australian infantry have better night vision and communications equipment but the TNI is developing better capabilities in this area and has only to equip a fifth of its infantry to match then outnumber, the ADF. Being numerically inferior is not a problem if you have superiority in tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft. However if you only have parity then you have a serious problem. If you are overmatched, you lose.


TNI Marines in combat – Indonesia has a large professional army

Sustainability and supply chain

It is an open secret that the ADF lacks depth in sustainment. What that means is that we don’t have enough reserves of fuel, ammunition, spare parts, technically trained personal, and human infrastructure to sustain a high intensity conflict aka open war.

Rather we are trained and equipped for counter insurgency and coalition operations. We use stuff up and then replace it. Our capacity for sustained national defence against a determined aggressor with modern weapons is doubtful.

Australia is beginning to address this through investments to ‘network and harden’ our land forces. Essentially this is a rolling series of programs to replace and upgrade transport vehicles and communications equipment. If future governments continue to commit substantial funding to this process it will yield results in the 2020 - 2040 time frame but it won’t happen without bi-partisan support.

The TNI on the other hand has its own challenges. Logistically hundreds of vehicles and nearly half a million people are not easily coordinated, supplied, and moved over water. A very substantial naval transport infrastructure would have to be assembled. However Indonesia is developing its blue water capability including capacity for beach landings. A maritime nation with thousands of islands would be expected to do so. It is not cause for alarm but does require careful monitoring. Also, once a base was established on Australian soil the 64 Hercules transport aircraft Indonesia intends to buy could move a lot of kit very quickly. In all likelihood, if the TNI gained air superiority they would cross either the Timor Sea or, having first taken Papua New Guinea and established a forward base, cross the Coral Sea to the eastern side of Cape Tribulation North Queensland. They can ignore Darwin, bomb our northern bases, but move their land forces down the east coast of Australia, establishing military bases and supplying them by sea as they go.


Indonesian soldiers during combat operations in Ache. I once went shooting with guys like these at a target range in Ambon – about which you can read more in my book.

What Happens After ‘Ten’?

We started with the ten points of modern warfare. Number ten was “Disarm surrendered forces and send them home (or massacre them).”

There is no need to speculate about what would happen in Australia if the TNI were to take control. East Timor and Iryan Jaya provide real world examples. The TNI’s habit of ignoring Islamic violence against minorities within Indonesia should also provide a clue. I will spare the detail. It’s not hard to google.

This is not an alarmist post. Indonesia, like all nations, has a natural right to self-defence. From their perspective they have extremely well-armed neighbours to their West, a large and relatively lawless archipelago that harbours extremists to their north, there are separatist movements in Ache and Iryan Jaya, and they lost East Timor following an invasion by UN forces led by Australia. In addition Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic country. They are concerned by the rise of atheist China in Asia and by the US habit of invading Muslim countries on false pretexts without UN support. They have 13000 islands and hundreds of ethnic groups to manage. It is unsurprising that they are investing in a capacity for shore landings, submarines, a mobile professional army, and affordable combat aircraft.

What is needed in our region is a reasonable balance of forces. This can be done affordably and without offence by Australia if rational policy decisions are allowed to replace rent seeking within the Defence bureaucracy. This is the topic of my next and subsequent posts.


Tag line:  Australian army, TNI, Indonesian military capability, GAM Ache, network and harden ADF, Australian Abrams tanks, Australian defence policy, Australian and strategic defence policy.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Defence Force Pornography Meets the Real World - part 2 of 'how Australia lost the war of 2030'

Part 2 - the Sea War

In a previous article I speculated that global financial difficulties could impose severe hardship on poor countries that are not self-sufficient in food or fuel. This could, given the right circumstances, lead to war on our doorstep and even invasion.

Most recently Dr Robert O’Neill of the Australian National University Strategic and Defence Studies Centre warned of a “growing threat from large nations with huge populations but diminishing food and resources.” See here.

While no one knows the future we can make real world predictions about how a conflict with our northern neighbour might play out based on the current known strategy and the military acquisition paths of both nations. 

The first article considered the air war and found that, based on a review of the open source technical literature; the RAAF would be wiped out by the Indonesian forces in little time. This article considers the sea war.

These pictures show what happens when a medium sized vessel such as a frigate or an air warfare destroyer is hit with a torpedo. Similar results are obtained with air launched anti ship missiles.

Take Control of Strategic Sea Approaches

With the RAAF out of the way (see previous article) Indonesian pilots, while grieving some losses, continue their busy day. The Sukhoi carries the Russian Moskit and the Indo/Russian Brahmos anti-ship missiles. These are released at wave top height just as the Sukhoi pops over the horizon at around 30 nautical miles from the target vessel. The missile advances at supersonic speed allowing just seconds for missile defence systems to track and engage. According to standard Russian military doctrine a number of Sukhoi’s would release salvos to overwhelm ship defences.

Take out RAN surface vessels

No Australian vessel could realistically survive a sustained aerial assault in this fashion. Our air warfare destroyers are not designed to. The AWDs were developed as a force multiplier to operate under continuous air cover, either from shore based aircraft, or as part of an aircraft carrier battle group. In this scenario their powerful tracking radars and long range missiles provide theatre defence while friendly aircraft patrol against sneak attacks. A couple of vessels sitting like ducks in the open ocean without air cover are highly exposed. They have to contend against ‘pop-up’ attacks from just over the horizon that render their radar effectively useless because no radar can track a target once it retreats back below the horizon.

The critical issue therefore in this engagement is who sees who first. If the Indonesian pilots flying at height are picked up by the AWD’s they will likely be shot down. However, once they get a fix on where the AWD is, an attack can be coordinated. Some aircraft losses are acceptable if the RAN can be wiped out. Getting a fix on the AWDs is a matter of coordinating HUMINT, SIGINT, ELINT, submarine tracking, and direct observation from air patrols. Air power may also be supplemented by up to 10 Indonesian frigates which may well be armed with the cutting edge Indo/Russian Brahmos missile.

In all likelihood with the RAAF wiped out, the AWDs will park themselves as close as possible to northern military bases, or to population centres such as Cairns, in an attempt to provide some sort of air defence. They would be observed and informed on pretty quickly and Indonesian forces deployed accordingly. For a recent article on the AWDs see here.

Submarines – what submarines?

With RAN surface vessels sunk the only military impediment to a seaborne invasion is then Australia’s submarine fleet -at this point queue derisive laughter. Officially Australia will build 12 state of the art bespoke long range, quiet conventional submarines. These will lurk around key waterways, discharging special-forces and raining cruise missiles on our enemies, before slipping away. That is Department of Defence pornography. In the real world the RAN is struggling to crew six vessels. How they will crew the new air warfare destroyers and another six submarines is an open and unanswered question. Submarine crews are not easy to find.

In the last 30 years Australia has proven itself unable to build or maintain an operational submarine force capable of sustained engagement in a high intensity conflict. That is the politest possible way to say it. On one occasion the entire fleet was laid up for repairs. By 2030 our current fleet will either be retired or struggling to maintain operational readiness. The obvious solution of purchasing an off-the shelf replacement fleet has been ruled out in favour of a make-work welfare program for Australia’s domestic industry. There is no reason to believe therefore that by 2030 (or at any future time) Australia will have a credible submarine force. Indonesia in contrast has only two submarines currently but will increase their fleet to between six and ten quiet conventional off-the shelf vessels. See further here: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/Submarines-for-Indonesia-07004/


Large, expensive, and seldom operational – Australia’s Collins class submarine

Australian defence planners feel the need to have a machine that can take part in coalition operations in the northern hemisphere, and, seeing lots of water around Australia, see a need for a machine with great range and endurance. That means bigger, costlier and noisier and hence less survivable subs. Indonesia sees things rather differently. Without global ambition the shallow seas of the island arc to Australia’s north are perfectly suited to submarine warfare by small quiet European and Russian subs. Quite affordable. Very deadly. No problem.

What About Stealth?
In all likelihood Indonesia will acquire the stealth version of the Sukhoi, known as the PAK-FA, within relevant time-frames. This aircraft is a joint project between India and Russia designed for export and to compete with the American F-22 stealth fighter. It will be a natural follow-on purchase for local Sukhoi customers - Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The PAK-FA is a genuine stealth design meaning that it will be invisible to ship borne radar, including the aegis radar on Australia's Air Warfare Destroyers.
In order to remain undetected by radar all ordinance must be carried internally which will likely preclude carriage of anti-ship missiles. However the PAK-FA will carry guided bombs which can be released from altitude above the target vessel. Effective stealth means that the TNI will be able to largely replicate the very successful strategy used by the Americans in the Pacific win WWII in which Dauntless dive bombers devastated Japanese combat vessels. Curiously Defence has made no public acknowledgement of the existence of the PAK-FA that I am aware of despite wide publicity surrounding trials of mature prototypes.

The details of using stealth aircraft in the naval strike role are discussed here http://www.ausairpower.net/Raptor-ASuW.html

In the multi-polar stealth-on-stealth world of the Pacific Rim circa 2025 purchasing air warfare destroyers is about as sensible as investing in more cavalry before the outbreak of WWII.

Bomb Everything…

With the Australian airforce and navy out of the way expect a deadly bombing campaign. I will spare you the technical detail. Modern combat aircraft carry lots and lots of nasty things that fall from the sky. As Saddam Hussein discovered, ground forces cannot survive long if the enemy owns the skies. The Australian Army has no indigenous air defence apart from the RBS 70 shoulder fired missile.  This weapon is designed for point defence against helicopters and poses no threat to tactical aircraft. After a few days of bombardment the Australian army would be forced to retreat south or surrender. Most likely they would pull back to Sydney out of Sukhoi range. Given sufficient will they might attempted ‘scorched earth’ and then use guerrilla tactics to try and interrupt the TNI’s supply line. On any scenario, Northern Australia will be over-run. Once over-run the TNI can build or capture airfields to provide deeper air cover to their advancing forces.

Next article: what happens to the army – how do we fare fighting on our own soil?

Indonesian Marines conducting a beach landing during combat duty in Ache

For further reading on the debacle that passes for a sea power strategy these days I recommend the following sponsored link: http://newaustralia.net/defence_navy.html
For some visuals of what a TNI army/marine force looks like see here.

Tag line: TNI, ABRI, Royal Australian Navy, RAN, naval strategy, Collins submarine, Air Warfare Destroyers, replacing the Collins, Indonesian military build up, Brahmos missile, Australian defence vulnerability, Pacrim security.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Defence Force Pornography Meets the Real World - how Australia lost the war of 2030


In a previous article I speculated that global financial difficulties could impose severe hardship on poor countries that are not self-sufficient in food or fuel. This could, given the right circumstances, lead to war on our doorstep and even invasion. Academics and the military intelligentsia have for more than a decade been warning about future invasion as a serious possibility in the time frames within which defence planning takes place. Most recently Dr Robert O’Neill of the Australian National University Strategic and Defence Studies Centre warned of a “growing threat from large nations with huge populations but diminishing food and resources.” See here.

These are not xenophobic rantings. These are professional academics doing their job and they deserve to be taken seriously. Unfortunately that is usually as far as it gets. When it comes down to what defence equipment Australia needs, can afford, can maintain, and can turn into a coordinated military system, there is plenty of ill-informed speculation but almost no technical analysis. The only place I have found systematic analysis by subject matter experts that joins the dots between technical detail, tactical strategy and strategic policy, is Air Power Australia (ausairpower.net). If anyone knows any other sources please share! The following article, at least as regards air power, draws heavily on their peer reviewed published papers and on personal communication with members of the APA community.

While no one knows the future we can make real world predictions about how a conflict with our northern neighbour might play out based on the current known strategy and the military acquisition paths of both nations.  Due to the length of the article it will occur as a series of postings. This anaysis is based on research over several years, and pesonal conversations with several leading defence engineers and academics.

Nation State Conflict #101

As any student of modern military history knows, modern warfare was invented by the Nazi’s in the 1930’s. Since then there has been exponential growth in technology but no fundamental change in strategy. What Coalition forces did in the Gulf is text book and replicates almost exactly what German forces did during their European and Russian Offensives. The Americans may have used cruise missiles not Stuka dive bombers, but the strategy is the same. It goes like this:

  1. Destroy command and control and information (C3I) networks – radar, radio, digital links etc.
  2. Win control of the air.
  3. Take control of strategic sea approaches.
  4. Bomb everything that moves, drives, floats or has military value according to a priority list of targets.
  5. Weaken opposing defensive lines with artillery, rockets and air assault.
  6. Use mechanised armour lead by tanks to break through points of weakness.
  7. Having ‘broken through’ outflank opposing forces, cut off their supply lines, and force their surrender.
  8. Isolate and surround points of resistance such as built-up areas or rugged terrain.
  9. Drive to the capital and install the new government.
  10. Disarm surrendered forces and send them home (or massacre them).

So let’s now take a systematic look, point by point, at how the Indonesian National Defence Forces – Tentara Nasional Indonesia or ‘TNI’ might do this in the event of a conflict with Australia.

Destroy C3I networks

Given the vast size of the continent and its approaches C3I networks are particularly important to Australia but are greatly underinvested with no forward growth program evident beyond a vague wish list. Nor do we have the kind of low tech C3I that actually works in high intensity conflicts – locally trained people who report on what they see using everything from mobile phones to dispatch riders. Our military is detached from the community rather than imbedded in it and we do not have the kind of national civil defence that New Zealand has. There is no serious impediment to any nation implanting a fifth column of well-armed observers and saboteurs into Australia, or of the TNI landing special-forces across our North. Until recently an operative had only to fly from Tehran to Jakarta, get a three month visa, take a bus ride to the coast, get on a boat, sail just outside of Indonesian territorial waters and sound a mayday. When the Australian government taxi service (aka border patrol) shows up jump in the water and ‘guess what’ – chances are they are or will be Australian. If they get sent to PNG it won’t be long before they get entry to Australia, if not forever, then for long enough.

Picture: Indonesian special forces

This could pose serious problems in a high intensity conflict. That said our better defended installations are not easily reached without submarine launched cruise missiles which Indonesia does not currently possess, or combat aircraft.

Win Control of the Air

Officially in 2030 Australia will have 100 ‘stealth’ Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) supported by a fleet of airborne early warning aircraft (AEWACs). According to the Department of Defence the Fighters will be undetectable by enemy radar but will have complete ‘situational awareness’ due to advanced sensors and data fusion. Guided by the AEWACs, and perhaps by the aegis radars on our air defence destroyers, these planes pootle undetected to within weapons range of the unsuspecting Indonesian Sukhoi fighters. They release their long range air to air missiles, note the kills on their radar, and fly home for a cool beer. The nation is saved.

That is Department of Defence pornography. For some it gives a certain sense of gratification but has very little connection with anything real. The real world is not quite so ideal.

Picture: Indonesian Sukhois in foreground, legacy RAAF Hornets in background
Enter the fight

Our AEWACs are vulnerable at tactical ranges to long range radar homing missiles carried by the Indonesian Sukhois. In order to protect the AEWACs Australia’s JSFs will have to fly to the edge of the AEWACs’ radar range. That means the AEWACs will not necessarily detect opposing aircraft before they close to the range at which they can engage the JSFs. This levels the field considerably.

The Indonesian Sukhoi’s fly higher and faster than the JSF, and their air-to-air missiles are longer ranging. The Sukhoi’s have greater range, greater acceleration, greater agility, more missiles, and carry more fuel.

This means the Sukhoi’s can take ‘pot shots’ at stand-off range. They can shoot at the JSF and the JSF cannot shoot at them. Both the radar and the infra-red sensor suite on the Sukhoi are superior to the JSF at long ranges. Further, the Sukhois may be equipped with radars operating in the lower bands that can detect ‘stealth’ aircraft. To make matters worse for Australia, the JSF has the hottest tail pipe of any aircraft which makes it very easy to detect at tactical ranges by the Sukhoi’s forward looking infra-red search and track. The Sukhoi can shoot down the JSF from the rear without even turning its radar on.

If the JSF keep their noses pointed at the Sukhois they might live to enter the fight. From the front aspect the JSF is relatively stealthy. From beam and rear aspect they are far less so. The Indonesian Sukhois are unlikely to be cooperative and attack from only one direction. By sharing tactical data they are able to get a ‘fix’ on the slower JSF.

Now things get really interesting. The JSF only carries four missiles in internal carriage. Carrying external missiles compromises its’ stealth advantage. The Sukhoi carries eleven missiles. Once the JSF launch their air to air missiles their position is revealed. The Sukhoi pilot facing the oncoming missile has the following choices:

  1. Launch a missile salvo in reply then power on. If the JSF is forced into a turning manoeuvre or engages in electronic jamming, it will become more detectable to other aircraft and hence more vulnerable.
  2. Jam the oncoming missile. The Sukhoi comes with a sophisticated cross eye jamming capability that is quite effective against radar homing American missiles operating in the X band.
  3. If that doesn’t work, out manoeuvre the missile in the terminal end phase. The reason why the Sukhoi has thrust vectoring exhaust nozzles is to achieve extreme + + agility. It doesn’t just look good at air shows. They can literally dodge the standard American air to air missile (AMRAAM AIM 120 series).
  4. Turn and run. On many scenarios the Sukhoi has the speed and the fuel to fly out of range of the inbound missile then simply turn around and come back. The JSF will run out of ammo after four shots. With 11 missiles and lots of fuel, this is a game the Indonesian pilots can play quite happily.

Once the JSF run out of ammo they are dead. The Indonesians simply run them down and shoot them down. That was the finding of RAND Corporation when modelling this scenario in a mock conflict between the US Navy and China but using the same aircraft. It was famously said that the JSF were “clubbed like baby seals” by the Sukhois.

If the JSF pilots are smart enough to keep some shots in their weapon bays the Sukhois will merge for a close turning fight. In theory the JSF’s 360 degree sensors means that it will know where every attack is coming from. The pilot simply releases his missile and guides it. The reality is that the standard air-to-air missile integrated into the JSF is not capable of turning tightly enough or of being guided accurately in this scenario. In other words, although helmet queuing allows off-bore sight shots by both sides, the JSF cannot take a ‘shoulder shot’ against a fast turning opponent. At the time of writing, the missile cannot even be released from the weapon bay turning a high G turn. In this scenario the JSF is toast. It has less acceleration, climb, and manoeuvrability than legacy aircraft from the 1960s. The Sukhoi’s have every advantage. RIP RAAF.

Attrition and LER

When professionals model these scenarios they assume that all available aircraft from each side do not meet each other in a single engagement. Rather sorties and counter sorties are flown; surviving aircraft return home to be armed and fuelled then put back into the fight. The deciding factor is the ‘Loss Exchange Ratio’ or LER. Over a number of engagements the side that fares best will attrite the other and win unless the other side has substantially greater numbers. Attrition matters in the air war. In WWII fatal attrition occurred over a number of years. In our scenario it will likely occur over a number of hours. On various assumptions air power planning professionals have modelled a LER of 1:5 in favour of the Sukhoi against the JSF. In other words, over a series of engagements/sorties five JSF are shot down for every Sukhoi.  On that basis the Indonesian air force can fight and win with substantially fewer aircraft. So how many aircraft is each side likely to have?

What will Australia have?

There is no possibility that Australia will in 2030 have 100 fully operational JSF because this platform is now prohibitively expensive and will not enter full production until later this decade. The JSF was originally pitched at USD30M per plane. The cost is now USD160M plus 30 per cent minus 10 per cent, but is climbing steadily towards AUSD 200M. While the costs climb the capability of this still largely experimental aircraft continues to degrade. Those numbers are not sustainable in the economic climate of the next decade. It is during that decade that acquisition and training must occur. In all likelihood therefore Australia will, if it continues with this absurd program, have around 54 JSF. In that scenario in 2030 we will also still be flying 28 Superhornets purchased as a 'stop gap' to cover late arrival of the JSF. The Superhornets are not stealth aircraft though they have some signature reduction. Unlike the JSF they are capable of manoeuvre, carry eleven missiles; and their radar is more powerful than that on the JSF. Although they will be a welcome addition to the fight they are still markedly inferior to the Indonesian aircraft for reasons explained here: http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-060807-1.html  and here http://www.ausairpower.net/DT-SuperBug-vs-Flanker.html

In a rational universe Australia would be flying the evolved F-111 enabling it to deliver a devastating counter strike against TNI bases in Indonesia. However the Department of Defence chose to dig holes and bury the F-111 in the hope that the JSF would one day be made to work.

So what will the Indonesians have?

Their stated intent is to have a strike force of 180 Sukhois with additional second tier aircraft and ground attack aircraft. If they achieve this, the maths is pretty stark for Australia. While Indonesia has the money to acquire the planes, training pilots and ground crew in sufficient numbers will take time, and they appear to be progressing steadily but not rushing. 


F-16 in foreground and Sukhoi’s of the modern and diversified Indonesian air force.

What we do know is that Indonesia has budgeting and is shopping for a combat air force comprising 64 Sukhoi fighter jets and 32 F16 fighter jets to comprise their tactical combat tier 1 and Tier 2 aircraft. In addition The TNI are shopping for a diverse and numerous force of ground attack/dual purpose training aircraft; namely 36 Hawk 100/200 fighter planes, 12 F5E fighter jets, 16 Super Tucano fighter planes, and 16 Yak 130 fighter planes. Add to this 36 unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and 64 Hercules transport planes and you have a modern, diversified, balanced and deadly air force. See further here.

This is not the third world air force imagined by contemporary defence planners in Australia, but a balanced modern force structure that emphasises support of ground forces with top cover provided by cutting edge combat aircraft. In addition this structure will have significant C3I capability and the capacity to move large amounts of people and kit to distant locations quickly. In short the TNI is building a cost effective air force capable of challenging the RAAF and of sustained assault against ground and naval systems. These will likely be supplemented by modern surface to air missile systems protecting airfields and key installations.

Based on a LER of 1:5 against the Joint Strike Fighter, this force allows the TNI to hold Australia at risk, allows coercive diplomacy, and enables the TNI to blockade Australia’s northern sea lanes without fear of retaliation.

What about variables?

There are a couple of variables in our scenario. One is that the Americans might develop a longer ranging and tighter turning missile (which the Europeans have but which are not integrated into the JSF). This would increase JSF survivability but will not overcome the limitations inherent in the design (can’t turn, can’t climb, too slow, too little ammo, airframe too small for modification, radar too small).

As a Sukhoi customer, Indonesia is next in line to receive the next generation stealth Sukhoi currently designated the PAK-FA. This radar evading aircraft will be at least as stealthy as the JSF. However unlike the JSF there has been no compromise in kinematic performance or weapons load making it vastly superior. A small number of PAK-FA thrown into the fight would be a substantial force multiplier for the Indonesians and tip the balance decisively in their favour.

What about the Americans?

According to current strategy in 2030 the USAF fighter force will be comprised entirely of JSF and Superhornets with a handful of aging F-22 air superiority stealth fighters. Any American forces based in Australia will therefore have the same difficulties outlined above unless the USA fields the F-22 in Australia. Given a LER of 1:5 there would have to be very large number of USAF aircraft stationed in Australia requiring construction of entirely new air bases or the stationing of at least one aircraft carrier battle group if a coalition force were to prevail. Of course, Indonesia may not wish to attack US forces for all sorts of reasons. However that didn’t stop the Japanese, and I would prefer that my children’s future was secured by Australia’s domestic defence rather than the inscrutable intentions of future diplomats from other countries. It takes a couple of months for an aircraft carrier battle group to sail from northern hemisphere deployment to Australia and our war will be won or lost in a matter of days. Further, if the Americans are busy in the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea for example, and if they lose, Indonesia will have little to fear.

Editors Note: this article has not attempted a full explanation of just how flawed the Joint Strike Fighter Program is since a comprehensive account would be as long as the article itself. However the following sponsored link provides a good summary: http://newaustralia.net/defence_airforce.html

There is also a fairly comprehensive research site on what a social and financial disaster this aircraft is for the US. See here: http://f35baddeal.com/

For a summary of recent revelations published in Vanity Fair see here http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/9/20/politics/us-deep-throat-destroys-jsf-cover

Additional up-to date discussion can be found at this sponsored link: http://elpdefensenews.blogspot.com.au/p/f-35-reading-list.html

One of my own submissions on this topic can be found at this blog here: http://findinghomebookspace.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/submission-to-joint-standing-committee.html

Tag line: Australian defence policy, Australian strategic and defence policy, TNI, ABRI, Kompassus, Sukhoi export, stealth fighter, JSF, Joint Strike Fighter, PAK-FA, T-50, NACC, Air Power Australia, food security, Pacific Rim defence