Defence Minister Marise Payne has used the biennial Air Power Conference in Canberra to announce that the RAAF’s new P-8A Poseidon aircraft have achieved initial operating capability.
Six of the 12 P-8 aircraft to be acquired are now in service with the 11 Squadron at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia. Senator Payne said P-8A Poseidon and the future MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft will provide Australia with one of the world’s most advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capabilities.
“The Poseidon will improve Defence’s ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol and surveillance of Australia’s maritime approaches,” she said.
In her speech, the minister also told the more than 1000 delegates that the region had changed since she addressed the 2016 Air power conference. “North Korea has made significant steps towards acquiring an ICBM capability. Daesh – Islamic State - have sought to gain a foothold in the region, taking over the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines.”
Senator Payne also said there were risks to our comprehensive embrace of technology. “Twenty years ago our thoughts would not necessarily have gone to the need to protect our aircraft from cyber security threats but that is exactly what we are now doing,” she said.
Senator Payne said it was never really contemplated that one day every emergency service, new car and smartphone would use GPS, which was initially developed as a military navigation technology. “This exemplifies the challenge of technology. As we increase our reliance on it, we also become vulnerable to attacks,” she said.
Keynote speaker Bilahari Kausikan of the National University of Singapore presented the regional perspective on some global developments, the election of US President Trump and the rise of China.
He said the US and China were changing, and changing the world, and in absolute terms both would remain substantial powers.
“Simply put, the US under Mr Trump is not as bad as the American media and large parts of the American establishment, still anguishing over his unexpected victory, portrays,” he said. “China under Mr Xi Jinping is not the juggernaut that the Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus would have us believe. This again ought to be obvious, but the obvious is clouded by the emotional shock of Mr Trump’s election and the confidence with which Mr Xi presents China’s ambition for a new era.”
Retired RAAF Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn warned that without energy security, the RAAF’s new fifth generation capability would not work.
Yet there is no national energy security strategy and there is no strategic stockpile of fuel able to keep the country and the defence force operating in time of crisis.
“Our energy security is fragile and we can’t let that continue,” he said.