Year

2003

Degree Name

Master of Maritime Studies - Research

Department

Centre for Maritime Policy - Faculty of Law

Abstract

Australia is a maritime nation in one of the most complex open ocean, littoral and archipelagic maritime regions in the world. The sea is the defining physical characteristic in the region. The overwhelming significance of this is that Australia has no land borders. This is a strategic advantage that must be better understood to avoid it becoming a strategic liability. Strategic realities endure. There are many more effective ways to overcome Australia other than via a military invasion. However, defence against such an invasion is currently the prime force structure determinant in Australian defence planning. As an alternative to this, Australia should better appreciate that a mature maritime capability would provide the mobility and power projection to deter aggressors engaged in operations against Australias interests at distance from Australia itself. Such an understanding would lead to the implementation of a credible maritime strategy. Underpinning such a maritime strategy is the strategic concept of sea control. Sea control requires control of the air. Without sea control maritime power projection cannot occur and forces cannot be operated ashore. Additionally trade to and from Australia can be interdicted at will. However, the central role of sea control for Australias strategic security remains obscured by Australias consistent continentalist approach. It is time to bring maritime strategy to the fore, to re-engage the aircraft carrier issue and to stress the fundamental imperative for capable surface combatants. This would ensure that sea control is the enabler that underpins Australias defence policy. A mature Australia should relegate the vitriolic single-service oriented debates that concluded in 1983 about aircraft carriers to that era. A study should be conducted to rigorously review the technology, operational concepts and strategic realities of 2003 to 2040, with respect to Australias maritime strategic circumstances. As the Australian Defence Force makes decisions on new projects that will affect force structure for the next 30 years, a maritime sea control and power projection requirement should input significantly to the new aerospace combat capability, Project Air 6000, and the project for the maritime air warfare capability, Project Sea 4000.

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