Friday, August 18, 2017

Australia Unlikely To Support U.S.

ComNavOps has long opined that spending time, money, and effort into cross-training with friendly nations is largely unproductive and unlikely to ever be of future benefit.  The basic rationale behind this position is that most friendly countries lack the military resources to be of any actual benefit in a conflict and/or they lack the will/desire to join the US.

Countries whose entire navy consists of few frigates or patrol boats just don’t have the resources to make any difference in a war so what’s the point of spending time and money training with them?  Examples include any African nation, Canada, Philippines, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc.

One of the rationales put forth for the LCS was that it was small enough to train with other countries navies and not intimidate them.  If their navies are that small, what possible benefit can they offer in a war?

Similarly, countries who have demonstrated a reluctance to actively side with the US are unlikely to suddenly side with us in the future so what’s the point of spending time and money training with them?  Examples, include most South American countries, France, Turkey, Philippines, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc.

We can now add Australia to the group of countries that would be unlikely to support the US, according to a survey reported by Submarine Matters blog (1).  Without going into the details of the survey, the results indicate that around 70% of Australian citizens would opt to remain neutral and not support the US or Japan in any conflict.  The blog notes that the survey was funded by a grant from a Chinese citizen which instantly makes the data suspect.  Nevertheless, the general thrust of the survey probably captures the prevailing desire of Australia to remain neutral.  You can see the tabulated data by following the link below (2).

Further evidence for this neutral stance comes in a recent speech in which Australian PM Turnbull described China as a “good friend and partner” (3).  If Australia believes that China is a good friend and partner then their neutral stance makes perfect sense.  Australia is naively wrong about this but that’s another topic.

There’s nothing wrong with the US working to get basing rights in Australia, if we think that will benefit us, but to spend time cross-training with a country that is unlikely to actively support us in the region is a waste of time.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Australia is a good friend to the US but is unlikely to be a military partner in any conflict.  So, I’m not saying we should cut ties with Australia – far from it! – just that we should not spend time cross-training with them.  Further, when you factor in their meager military resources, there is even less reason to spend time cross-training.

I know some people are going to get upset over this but it’s just a simple question of where best to allocate our military training time and money – nothing more sinister than that.  Also note that this discussion pertains to war, not anti-pirate patrols and other peacetime activities - many countries will support us during peace.  The proof is what happens to that support during combat and history and surveys of capabilities demonstrate that few countries have both the capability and willingness to support the US in combat.  As I said, this is just a training and budget priority issue, nothing more.


(1)Submarine Matters blog, 6-Jun-2017,

(3)Defense News website, “Prime Minister Turnbull Dismisses Notion That Australia Must Choose Between China And US”, Mike Yeo, 2-Jun-2017,


  1. Two issues here from what I can tell. 1) will Australia support the US if the US takes action above. 2) Is it worth the US's time to conduct exercises with countries which can't make much contribution?

    Ans 1) Australia will probably support the US and provide some sort of military support from our "meagre resources". For the last 40 years the public has not been keen on Australia going to war following the US's lead, but Australia has done so repeatedly. Also, I noted that in the survey that 91% specifically would not support China, if the war was with China (well, it said only 9% would support sending help to China instead...same thing, right?)

    2) Conduction multinational exercises is probably for several reasons. It's not just for the other nations to learn from the US, but for the US to get intel on other country's military- their skills, level of preparedness, attitudes, etc. Probably plenty of other diplomatic reasons you can think of too.

    Are Australia's resources really so minor? Sure, about 80% smaller than the USN. But Australia is upping it's naval hardware in tonnage in a big way over the next decade- new destroyers and frigates and OPV's, and new subamrines is more than doubling what it currently has. ALso getting proper OPV's will free up the frigates and destroyers for heavier fighting, possibly with the US.

    I don't think Australia has heavy naval assets at this moment, but it will in another decade or so.


    1. I do not follow Australian politics so I could be wrong but I have not read a single statement in recent history that even remotely suggests Australia would take an active part in a war with China. In fact, the statements I read suggest that China would seek to remain neutral. This poll simply reinforces that impression. Even an issue as seemingly simple and benign as basing rights is generating resistance and controversy. If you believe otherwise about Australia's desire to stand with the US, show me some evidence, statements, polls, or something.

      If Australia someday increases their forces to the degree that they could be significant in a war, then we can revisit the cross-training issue. Until then, it's not a useful expenditure on the US' part.

      I hope Australia greatly improves the number and quality of their armed forces and that they begin to demonstrate a willingness to stand with the US. I don't see either of those things happening but I hope they do.

    2. "noted that in the survey that 91% specifically would not support China"

      I note in the survey that approx 70% would opt to remain neutral in a war between US/Japan/China and that approx 50% do not believe the US/Aus treaty requires Australia to support the US in a war. Those are not encouraging numbers for US support!

    3. ComNavOps Australia's entire foreign policy is based on the premise that we will support the United States militarily.

      Australia has sided with the US in every major conflict she has gone into in the last century, including conflicts that most of America's allies avoided (Vietnam).

      To be honest, it's a little bit of an insult to the thousands of Australians who've been killed or wounded fighting alongside the US in wars that we only joined in to honor our alliance with the US to say that we need to "begin to demonstrate a willingness to stand with the US".

      That's pretty disrespectful to the sacrifice of the thousands of Australians who've served with the US over the last century, at great cost.

      Again, the Australian government and military have repeatedly demonstrated that they will assist the US militarily regardless of the popular opinion of those wars in the Australian community or the actual benefit those wars bring to the Australian country.

      You could argue that very few of the conflicts we have entered in the last half century had any particular relevance to Australia - the one real, abiding reason we joined those was to demonstrate our commitment to the alliance with the US.

      Now popular opinion may not support Australia's repeated willingness to enter wars to support the US, particularly a war with China which would cost our nation so much - but there was also little public support for Vietnam, the second Iraq war or the ongoing commitment to Afghanistan. But we still went. And we'd go again. Because the US alliance is the one constant of our foreign policy. Whether the average Australian likes it or not, Australia's cart is firmly tied to America's horse. That won't change anytime soon.

      One last thing you're likely overlooking is the Trump effect - the man is widely despised in Australia (he's widely despised in all of the countries allied to the US). That is influencing surveys like this.

      But when a war starts we don't hold a plebiscite - and one thing our political parties have repeatedly demonstrated is that they will support the US, come hell or high water, regardless of public opinion, because they see it as imperative.

      Support for the US alliance is a bipartisan position for both our major political parties.

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    2. "The point of US military exercises with other nations, ... isn't so those nations can effectively interoperate with the US ... but rather to further the interests of US foreign policy by creating relationships, dependencies, etc."

      That's kind of the point of the post! The military cross-training does nothing for our military security and there are other, better ways of promoting international relations.

    3. "polls are irrelevant when it comes to questions of war and peace"

      Untrue. Polls are why the US was forced to get out of Vietnam, for example. Polls are why the US was aggressive in pursuing the Desert Storm conflict. Polls are why the US was late entering WWII. And so on.

      No govt leader can afford to totally ignore the will of the people. If a poll is 51:49, a leader can get away with taking either side. However, if 70% of the people oppose actively supporting the US against China, no leader will long survive going against that will.

    4. The poll only surveyed 1,000 people. That's hardly a representative sample.

      The survey didn't ask about supporting to US and/or Japan in ANY conflict. You seem to be inferring that.

      The questions were specifically regarding support to US and Japan in an East China dispute over the Senkakus.

      You'll also not that well over 50% of the respondents weren't even aware that there was a dispute over the Senkaku Islands!

    5. Analyzing and inferring from limited data is what I do. Feel free to disagree with my conclusions but be fair and note that your own disagreements and conclusions are based on the same amount of data and just as susceptible to being incorrect.

      There are a special few of us who have the ability to correctly see trends and patterns in limited information. I share that information with my readers to inform and educate. Agree or disagree - your choice.

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    7. "The poll only surveyed 1,000 people. That's hardly a representative sample."

      That's what a poll is! A poll is a sampling of a small group that is statistically designed to represent a larger group. A properly designed poll IS representative. I don't know the detailed methodology of this particular poll but unless you have some inside knowledge that it was somehow deficient, I accept it at face value. Poll science and statistics have been long mastered.

  3. Well, Australia is part of ANZUS so in hypothetical shooting war with china it does not matter what Australian citizens think in some kind of polls

    1. In theory, yes. In practice, no govt can totally ignore the wishes of its people. If 70% oppose active support for the US, you can bet Australia's leaders will take note and ensure that there support is minimal, at best.

    2. Australian governments have made a long and storied tradition of ignoring public opinion to join in America's wars - Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, none were popular wars.
      The Aus government still sent thousands of soldiers to fight and die - and they did it for one reason - because they regard the US-Australia alliance as the cornerstone of Australia's foreign policy.
      This is a bipartisan issue in Australia's political establishment.

      If the unthinkable happened and the US came to blows with China, Australia would immediately join lockstep with the US. There's no doubt about it.
      The level of our support might vary based on circumstance but we'd be there almost by default. Our entire foreign policy is set up with that assumption in effect. It doesn't matter what some survey says.

      Further to your comments above, Australia is right now committing to an 81% increase in her defense budget over the next 10 years.
      This includes new helo carriers, AWACS destroyers, new frigates, 12 new submarines, new Poseidons, patrol vessels, a fleet of F-35s, Growlers, and a host of other big ticket items.

      If you read the last few Australian defense white papers this is also being done explicitly, unequivocally to challenge China's dominance in the region. There's no doubt about it - Australia is intentionally, openly building a new navy and air force specifically in case we have to engage in conflict with China.

      Australia openly campaigns for joint exercises with the US - it is driven more by Australia than by the US.
      The reason there are now US marines based in Darwin, the reason Talisman Sabre involves so many US military assets - this is due to Australian lobbying.

      Australia is working hard to entangle the US in our political and military establishment - because we need the guarantee of the US alliance to secure our own autonomy and foreign policy.

      Without the military and political support of the US how would Australia ever stand up to China?

      You've got a very naive view of this.
      I don't expect you to know much about Australia of course (why would you).
      But you've overlooked so much. To an Australian your insinuation seems pretty silly.

      If anything, Australia is worried the US would abandon us, not the other way round.

    3. "Australian governments have made a long and storied tradition of ignoring public opinion to join in America's wars"

      History is, of course, no guarantee of future actions. When I hear Australia's leaders state that there is no need to choose between China and the US and see poll data like this I can't help but draw the conclusion that Aus may well not support the US in a China-US war. Objectively, how could one draw any other conclusion? Could it be that when the time comes, Aus will act counter to its public govt statements and popular opinion and enter a war in support of the US? Sure, but objectively the reverse is more likely and that's why I raise the subject.

      One possible benefit to such a discussion is that it may awaken Australia's leaders to the perception that their words are creating. The US sees "no need to choose" as a lack of support. If that's not what was intended, perhaps Australia's leaders need to rethink and restate their positions.

      Regarding military expansion plans, I sincerely hope they happen but history assures that some will be dropped, all will be delayed, and all will be significantly reduced. Optimistic military budget plans NEVER happen as hoped.

      If/when Australia reaches a militarily significant (in terms of a major war contribution) level then I'll reconsider cross training. Until then, it makes no sense.

    4. "Australia is working hard to entangle the US in our political and military establishment"

      A fascinating perspective. I lack the background to evaluate the statement but the perspective is fascinating, nonetheless.

      An overall good comment regardless of whether I agree with all of it, or not. Thanks for contributing.

    5. Almost the entire spend over the next decade is committed funding. The contracts are signed. Many of the assets are laid down. Some are in sea trials. Of the assets I've described, only the future frigate programme and patrol vessels are still open to tender. Every other acquisition is contracted or in build. Some are just fitting out. Now, there's no doubt that there will be cost blow out's and delays. There aren't many military contracts that don't go through those things, anywhere in the world. But again, it almost seems silly to suggest that these things won't get built - these are contracted assets. Billions have already been spent on them. These kinds of spends take on a life of their own. It'd be easier to stop a glacier melting than to stop these investments. In terms of the inference that Australia would militarily useless to the US - well it's relative. Australia's primary use would the same as it was in WW2 - it's a secure staging point for military operations in the Asia pacific. Secondly, it won't hurt the US to have 12 additional SSKs in the Pacific if war broke out. The additional frigates and destroyers might not help a navy as well resourced as the US (though it won't hurt) but an extra 100 f-35s, and a couple of squadrons of super hornets and growlers might be handy too in a war of attention with China. Australia's military contribution won't be war winning of course. But it would be a lot more helpful than not having that help at all, wouldn't it? All that aside I'm not sure how aware you are of Pine Gap, and the role that plays.

    6. On the political side, you've got look a bit at Australian politics I'd you want to understand this subject. I'm not sure you fully appreciate things from the point of view of Australia in a geopolitical sense. The idea that we would ever voluntarily sacrifice the US alliance seems a little crazy to someone familiar with it. It's basically been the corner stone of Australian foreign policy for 70 years.

    7. "Australia's primary use would the same as it was in WW2 - it's a secure staging point"

      That's valid but that also illustrates my post point. Cross training is not required for the US to use Australia as a staging area.

    8. "I'm not sure you fully appreciate things from the point of view of Australia in a geopolitical sense."

      Of course I don't! That's also part of the reason for allowing comments. It's an opportunity for readers to elaborate and fill in gaps in knowledge.

    9. Australia operates with the US already. So if nothing else the training is helpful for the many current operations the Australian navy conducts with the US. It's not all about the potential of a conflict with China. Much of the training isn't geared towards that at all. If there actually was a massive conflict with China then Australian naval assets would be incorporated into US fleets, as they are today, as they were in WW2. So the training makes sense. Australia isn't Switzerland. We ate not going to suddenly declare neutrality and pull all our assets back to Sydney and Perth. We have no history of that. Just the opposite.

  4. America only declared war on Nazi Germany two years three months after Britain had been at war with Germany. Roosevelt needed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to bounce the American public to support him on war with Germany and Japan.

  5. "Further, when you factor in their meager military resources, there is even less reason to spend time cross-training."

    Australian defense spending was $22.8B in 2017. While that pales in comparison to US and China, it is still respectable. They are ranked #12.

    I will also add that having worked with both the RAAF and RAN during OIF - they punch well above what they spend.

    1. I'm sorry but the objective fact is that the current 8 Anzac frigates and 3 Perry frigates aren't going to make a bit of difference, one way or the other, in a war with China. Their submarines are beset with problems and barely seaworthy or deployable.

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    3. "will be replaced in the next few years by three Aegis-equipped Hobart-class destroyers, ... are to be replaced by nine future frigates."

      Plans are wonderful, aren't they? No one can dispute a plan. Did you know the US Navy plans to have a 355 ship fleet? Of course, no knowledgeable observer believes that will happen and, in the meantime, the fleet is continuing to shrink and will likely never return even to the 300 ship mark.

      Unless Australia has actually allocated the funding and issued contracts for the future, replacement ships, I don't believe it will happen. Numbers will be cut and timelines will be extended and delayed.

      Then there's the inevitable construction problems. Australia has an depressingly impressive history of naval construction problems and there is no reason to believe that will change.

    4. Closely related to this is the issue of whether Australia actively supporting the US is even a net positive. If Aus did enter a war with the US against China, would Aus immediately send all the ships and sub to the South China Sea to fight on the front line with the US? No. Aus would likely retain all of their navy in home waters for self defense. How would that help the US? It wouldn't. Not only would it not help, but the US would probably have to siphon off some BMD ships to protect Aus. It would likely be a net loss in combat power for the US!

      If that's the case, that Aus would be a net negative, maybe it would be better for Aus to remain neutral. At least then then US would not have to divert assets to protect Aus. And, if that's the case, I ask again, why bother cross training?

    5. "Your comments on Australia's Collins-class submarines are a few years out of date."

      Really? So, how many are deployed today? That's a genuine question. I don't know.

      The Collins class is 15-20 years old and seems to have spent much of their lives coping with severe mechanical, maintenance, crewing, and budget issues with periods in which no or one sub was available for deployment.

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    7. I would hope that Australia would ask themselves what the result of a US-China war would mean for Aus and let that answer be their guide as to involvement. Would a Chinese controlled Pacific be better for Aus or would a US controlled Pacific? Decide that and you'll know who to support. Personally, I view China as inherently evil and can't imagine any good coming from a Chinese controlled world.

    8. "ability of its submarines to gather intelligence off Vladivostok. Yet that is precisely one of the scenarios argued in support"

      Does Australia believe that they will fight Russia? If not, why would they have any interest in gathering intel on Russia? This sounds like the type of far-ranging and far-fetched justification process used to justify questionable decisions. The US military has certainly engaged in its fair share of ridiculous justifications, as I try to point out in this blog.

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    11. I commend you on a generally excellent summation and analysis. You offer a window of insight into Australian geopolitical thinking. Of course, how representative your views are of the general populace and government is an open question but your thoughts, alone, are nevertheless fascinating.

      I note that you make one huge, questionable assumption in all of your analysis of China and its impact on Australia and that is that, war or no war, China will be content with a fairly localized expansion and will act in a fairly benign manner. I, on the other hand, believe that China is aiming at nothing less than global conquest/domination and that there will be nothing benign about their behavior. I've detailed my reasoning in past posts (check out "China" in the keywords archive and look at the China War posts). You might want to review China's history (for psychological insight into China's paranoia), their stated ambitions (out to the second island chain has been publicly discussed), their overtly aggressive actions (militaristic expansionism, blatant disregard for international laws and treaties that they are signatories to, current cyber warfare, marked tendency to make up territorial claims, utter disregard for human rights, attitude towards individual life (human wave attacks), etc. If all of that does not paint an alarming picture of what a Chinese controlled world would look like then you're just ignoring reality. China shares nothing in common with Australia and Australia is just an eventual check box on the path to China's global domination.

      I bet the average Philippines citizen would have had much the same views as you regarding neutrality towards China and now Philippines is in the process of being annexed, if "peacefully", by China via immigration, intimidation, and courtship of Philippine's leader. Make no mistake, Australia is on the eventual conquest list.

      You have to hand it to China - they are conducting their expansionistic policies masterfully! They are outwitting, out-thinking, and out-acting the US at every step of the way. Their seizure of the first island chain is now a fait accompli and was accomplished without firing a shot! China is now solidifying their hold on the first island chain and beginning to work on the second island chain.

      Choose wisely, Australia!

    12. Leviathan's breakdown is essentially just the Geo-political orthodoxy here in Australia.
      If you took a political science class focused on Australia's foreign policy, you'd essentially be taught what Leviathan has said in the first few classes.

      To an Australian the very idea that we would ever not support the US militarily seems almost absurd, given we have joined every single major conflict the US has been involved in, for the last 70 years. Most of those conflicts had nothing to do with Australia, and engaging in them cost us billions of dollars, thousands of lives and considerable political enmity.

      As Leviathan has said we did it for basically one reason - we desperately hope that the US would return the favor and come to our aid should the occasion for that help ever arrive.

      To understand this position, you must understand that before WW2 Australia based it's entire foreign policy on the premise that the UK would fill the role of protector.
      During WW2 Australia famously (well famously to an Australian) and openly shifted it's allegiance and hopes for a protector to the United States.
      There is a famous speech by our war time Prime Minister (Curtin) where he openly declared this, without equivocation.

      Our entire foreign policy has based based on this tenant since that time.

      It is Australia, much more than America, that pushes this barrow.

      Think about Australia's Geo-political position and history for a moment.
      We are a sparsely populated, continent sized country, with massive resources and arable land, situated below the world's most populated region - a region full of powerful, heavily populated countries, many of which have dictatorial, militant governments.
      These are countries with less resources than Australia, but much more power.
      This is a region that has seen massive warfare over the last century, and currently has many (most) of the world's potential flash points for massive regional or global conflicts - Taiwan, Shenkuku, North Korea, the Kashmir.

      Historically Australia came uncomfortably close to being overwhelmed during WW2 by a regional Asian power. It was a close run thing from an Australian perspective.

      All these things influence our world view.
      Politically it has long been accepted politically as a bipartisan issue, without any disagreement, that we must stay in lockstep with the US, come hell or high water because without her, we are a small fish in a big pond - a pond full of sharks.

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    1. "a well-defined medium-term project"

      Do I need to recite the litany of well defined mid-term projects that the US has cancelled or drastically reduced? The A-12 Avenger was an absolute, cast in concrete certainty until the moment it was killed. The 32-ship Zumwalt (formerly DD-21 project) class was an absolute certainty until it was reduced to 3. The Navy committed to 55 LCS (before a design was even completed!) and that's now been cut in half, at best. The F-22 was envisioned as a production run of 750 before being sequentially reduced to around 180. Should I keep going? I can do this all night!

      These were all critical, well defined, short to medium term projects and all were cancelled or severely curtailed. Plans mean nothing. I hope Australia follows through on their plans but history assures us they won't happen as planned.

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    3. "Australia's future frigate program is not intended to push radical new technologies"

      That is an excellent point. As I said, I hope Australia does follow through on its plans!

    4. Commnavops, with respect, there's no doubt about the Future Frigate program.
      It's in the budget. It's essentially paid for from a budgetary perspective already.
      And the plan is very simple (as are most of Australia's military acquisitions) - we're going to buy a foreign frigate and try and assemble it in Australia.

      From that perspective, Australia's naval acquisitions are infinitely more simple than America's.

    5. "no doubt about the Future Frigate program.
      It's in the budget."

      Okay, point me at a document showing the budget allocation for this project. I'm truly interested to see the amounts allocated.

    6. The government has committed to an $89 billion shipbuilding program. And the most important thing is this - it's got bipartisan support. Both major political parties fully support it. In fact, the defence white paper that proposed the new fleet was written by the Labour government, but is now being implanted by the Liberal government.

    7. As I read and interpret it (some of the phrases are unfamiliar to me), the future frigate program is at a request for pricing stage. That is NOT a contract to build and no money has been actually allocated. This may or may not happen.

      The defense budget overview link contains nothing allocated. It's just proposals. Actual funding and contracts are non-existent. Setting that aside, the proposal calls for nothing of any combat relevance other than submarines.

      The F-35 program has no actual contracts or budgeted money that I can see at a quick glance.

      I see some tiny amounts allocated for planning of future frigates and submarines (which is encouraging) but no actual contract monies. The US allocates planning and design money all the time for things that never actually get purchased.

      Where am I wrong? What actual contracts or allocated money has been committed for combat-relevant assets?

      I'll repeat, I hope all this happens but history says it won't.

    8. What history? When in Australian history has the Australian government put out a tender for a major fleet asset, allocated the money in their forward projections and then cancelled the program? That has never happened in Australian history. I mean, why are you so suspicious of this one specific program? Australia just spent billions on two helo carriers and three AWACS destroyers and this ships are all either built and fitting out or actually in fleet. Australia has the money, already operates almost the exact same number of frigates and has no history of not following through major defence spends - I'm honestly struggling to understand your skepticism.

    9. I'm speaking of history in general. The US and many/all European countries routinely initiate military development and acquisition projects that then get cancelled or severely curtailed. The US is infamous for this. How many jointly developed xxxx assets have been announced between multiple European countries only to have the partners pull out when the time comes to actually spend the money? I don't specifically follow Australian defense acquisition programs but if Australia is somehow immune to such things I'll be astounded. Are you telling me that Australia has never cancelled an announced program or severely curtailed acquisition numbers????

    10. Australia doesn't have the same history of cancelled or disastrous naval acquisition programs that the US has. Partly this is because we don't experiment or try and develop new classes of ships on the scale or with the ambition that the US does. Most of our acquisitions ate off the shelf. We tend to just put out tenders and let European, Asian and North American firms compete for those contracts. Never in Australian history has a major acquisition program for a surface asset been put out to tender and then cancelled. Australia doesn't do that. Besides, this isn't some remarkable purchase - were simply replacing our existing, and ageing, frigate fleet. This is the backbone of our navy. If any program was unlikely to be abandoned or curtailed, its this one.

    11. "Australia doesn't have the same history of cancelled or disastrous naval acquisition programs"

      Indeed? Good for you!

      "The Australian light destroyer project aimed to build a class of small destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The project began in 1966 with the goal of developing simple light destroyers (DDL) to support patrol boat operations. The project was rescoped in 1969 when the Navy decided to use the ships to replace other destroyers as they retired, leading to an increase in the design's size and complexity. Concerns over the ships' cost and technological risk led the government to cancel the DDL project in 1973 on the RAN's advice, and a variant of the United States' Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate was procured instead." [Wiki]


      "In the 1990s, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) decided it needed an intermediate helicopter to operate from the ANZAC class frigates and the planned Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV); ... In 1997, the Australian Government signed a A$667 million contract with Kaman to purchase 11 upgraded Super Seasprites. By 2005, up to 40 deficiencies in the helicopter had been identified, including the inability to operate in bad weather and low-light conditions, and its failure to meet Australian airworthiness standards. ... In February 2007, The Australian announced that the Seasprite project was "almost certain to be scrapped". At this point, the project was six years over schedule and its cost had grown to A$1.1 billion, with an additional A$45 million forecast as required for further upgrades. ... On 5 March 2008, the project was canceled by the government" [Wiki]

      There have also been some major army projects cancelled, I believe.

    12. The DDL program never got beyond concept stage.
      The Seasprite program was the greatest acquisition failure in Australian defense history, in my opinion.

      But what I said remains true :
      The Australian government has never put out a tender for construction of a major fleet asset (any ship), budgeted for it's cost in forward projections and then cancelled the project.

      To suggest that the RAN wouldn't replace it's workhorse frigate fleet is a strange suggestion from my perspective.

      It seems fanciful.
      I mean anything's possible. But there's absolutely no evidence, even circumstantial that would suggest such a thing is going to happen.

      It just seems to be wild conjecture on your part based on basically nothing.

    13. The concern is very real. Australia is not magically immune from cancelled projects. Regarding the DDL program, it most certainly did get beyond concept:

      -The RAN conducted armament effectiveness studies
      -Navy's specification for the DDL design which was issued in late 1970.
      -Requests for tender for studies on major sub-components were also issued in 1970, and these were completed by mid-1971
      -construction of three DDLs was approved by the Liberal Party McMahon Government in August 1972
      -The DDL project's problems harmed the Australian shipbuilding industry. The cancellation of both the DDLs and another project to develop an Australian fast combat support ship design. ... Australian industry was also left with a bad impression as companies involved in the project had devoted considerable resources to preparing tenders for the DDL

      You'll also note that I have not stated that the project WILL be cancelled - only that it's not a sure thing until the ships are actually built; nothing more than that. I hope the project is completed but a note of caution is hardly "wild conjecture" given that Australia has, indeed, cancelled projects, as has every other country that has ever built a military.

  7. I think I understand why you take the position that you do in response to those numbers, however I think there is also another question that I am not convinced you have answered, but I suspect you think you have.

    That being, why should Australia, or any other nation for that matter, support the United States in war?

    I should say that my perspective is not Australian but British, so these comments should be read in that context.

    You have outlined in the comments here the long term objectives of China, not, I think, unreasonably. I am not however convinced that China is in a position to realise those ambitions, irrespective of the actions of the United States. Certainly, at this point, and for the foreseeable future the United States is the only nation that could challenge China's expansion, but I am not convinced that if we ignore the U.S. that China would have a free hand.

    I am a historian by education so allow me to draw a parallel. The U.S. today is, broadly, the British Empire of the 18/19th C. The major power, which is (I think this is the most significant point) removed geographically from it's Great Power Rivals. The U.S. may be a superpower that clearly surpasses (for now) China in a way that the U.K. did not surpass it's European rivals in that period, but I think that in both cases their dominance rested on a (reasonably) secure home base and the projection of power by sea (and in the case of the U.S. also by air). From reading your blog I suspect you will have some sympathy with that analysis.

    Now if the U.S. is today's British Empire, then what is China? I would suggest that the best comparison would be with France. Which is why I do not see China as as great a threat to the international order as we know it as you appear to. In both the case of France and China they are constrained by not only geography, but also in that they need to take account of major powers with which they share a land border. Part of the reason that the U.S. is able to focus it's attention in Eurasia is that there is no rival that you have to face in the America's. Just as in the case of Britain (even taking into account the Jacobite's and the Irish) there was no real rival in the British Isles.

    I think we have to ask, seriously, what stands in the way of a rising China other than the U.S. Firstly there is japan and South Korea. I would not argue that they alone could hold China, SK certainly could not. However I cannot imagine that either would accept becoming a Client state of China.

    India has similar, if somewhat more acceptable, long term ambitions to China, and when you look at the Indian diaspora many similar advantages. India will soon knock China off the top spot of the population rankings, has a healthier demographic profile, and in the medium to long term may over take China economically. I could argue that India will play the role of Germany...but that may be taking things a touch far! Either way, I do not see how China moves to incorporate India into it's sphere, at least not in a way that China would not have to continue to consider India a Rival. That is somewhat offset by Indian concerns re Pakistan, but the point still stands.

    What should be more concerning for us in the (broad) west is the relationship between China and Russia.

    I would suggest as well that you may be a little too dismissive of the contribution that Australian forces could make towards any conflict. Would it be better if they, or The British, could bring two or three times what they can to a fight, sure, but you yourself have considered attrition of U.S. forces in a potential conflict, do you really want to reject a half dozen frigates that could help to keep Chinese subs from the Indian ocean?

    1. (sorry character limits)

      The other question is what is in it for us? Us being U.S. allies generally. How good of an Allie is the United States? I don't deny the contribution of the U.S. to NATO during the cold war, or for example the co-operation on nuclear matters between the U.K. and the U.S., but it is not hard to see how some (not I should say myself) could see the U.S. as an Allie when it suits itself but treats lesser powers as client states the rest of the time. Britain (and Australia I believe) supported the U.S. in Iraq (rightly I believe) but what did we get out of that? In '82 British sovereign territory was invade by what was essentially a fascist dictatorship, now the support of the U.S. defence establishment was fantastic, but the U.S. Diplomatic establishment, well, the less said about that the better. Also when the War on Terror was new, and America discovered the cost of terrorism (as it happens I remember 9/11 as clearly as if it were yesterday, and my cousin was supposed to be in the Towers that day but thankfully wasn't) I lost count of the number of peoples I heard people comment on the irony of America suddenly being against terrorism after the amount of money that the IRA was able to raise on your side of the Atlantic.

      In short I think that the problem you have is that it is becoming more difficult for the 'free world' to see what we should defer to U.S. leadership anymore. Russia is a threat that U.S. assistance with would be helpful to Europe, but that assistance is not essential. China is I think a threat, but that is not something that has been well articulated by the U.S.

      Your target audience is American, and that's fine, but to say that Australia wouldn't support us, and these other nations would be of any use, so you should disengage, well where does that get you? I imagine that you have seen the recent pictures of HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS George H W Bush (or was it the Ford?) and I have to wonder does that represent a sufficient capability on the part of Britain to be useful to you? If it is, then ask what do we want to bring to the fight? Why would it be in our interests? If the answer to that second question doesn't go beyond what is good for America is good for Britain/Australia/whoever, then more and more people in those countries will begin to wonder how, other than having better movies, America is any better a dominate power than China would be.

    2. "becoming more difficult for the 'free world' to see what we should defer to U.S. leadership anymore."

      This is exactly the type of reasoned, well written discussion that I encourage. Well done.

      That said, I agree with your entire setup and disagree with your conclusions.

      One of the problems that Americans have with the rest of the world is that we feel that the "world" has become lazy and has opted to let America patrol the world, fight terrorists, resist the Soviet empire, resist China, conduct immense humanitarian missions, and guarantee the security of any country that chooses to be our friend while they pursue social agendas and neither contribute to the global defense sufficiently nor recognize the contributions of the US in any but a very grudging way. So much for the psychology.

      America has always had a strong isolationist tendency that continues today. Our leaders keep us engaged globally (wisely) but the average person has a strong desire to pull back and let the other countries take care of themselves.

      Now some specific disagreements:

      "other nations would be of any use, so you should disengage,"

      Read carefully what I wrote. I did NOT advocate disengagement on the geopolitical level - ONLY on the very specific military cross-training level and ONLY as a budget-military benefit issue. Do not ascribe broader actions to me than I actually called for!

      "sufficient capability on the part of Britain to be useful to you?"

      I consider the UK to be on the very low end of military usefulness in the case of a major war. The Royal Navy has few ships and fewer all the time, with limited assets and limited functionality. The lack of munitions in Libya is one example. The lack of an effective AEW or electronic warfare aircraft to make your carrier air wing truly useful is another example. Your carrier air wing is too small to be militarily useful for much beyond self-defense. And so on. The RN has historically had some nice frigate/destroyers which would be helpful but they lack state of the art large area radar and combat systems like Aegis - and the numbers are declining. I'm not bashing the RN or UK, just stating the objective fact that the UK's military forces have shrunk almost to the point of being no more than a home waters defense force. The case of Australia is even more pronounced. They offer almost nothing in a major war even if they wanted to help.

      As I said, excellent comment! Please feel free to tell me why I'm wrong. I encourage a well reasoned, well written disagreement. It expands the range of interest for readers. Bear in mind, though, that the post was limited to military cross-training although I just expanded on that a bit in this comment! I look forward to your thoughts.

    3. 1/2

      Couple of quick points.

      I suspect that the Australians might feel the same towards say New Zealand as the U.S. does to the rest of the world as you say, certainly there is a significant aspect of British thought (when it engages with these issues) that would look at much of Europe in a similar way. We should recognise that is what happens when more powerful nations contribute, intentionally or not, to the defence of weaker nations. I also don't think that America is actually unusual in the extent to which is is isolationist. You just have a) a governing system that is more susceptible to the whims of public opinion than either a Westminster or PR model system does. In fact I'm not convinced we can really consider the U.S. to be a major world power of the first rank prior to say the early 30's, since when the U.S. has always been engaged. That is however an outsiders perspective and by the by.

      On the disagreement.

      "I did NOT advocate disengagement on the geopolitical level"

      As it happens I did read what you wrote very carefully! Indeed I refereed back to it several times in writing my comment. I also understand your response, however I am not convinced that the message would be pick up by third parties in the way you would hope. Take the Australian example, as this is actually a pretty nice one, if the U.S. was to reduce or eliminate the cross Navy training that goes one, you may say that it is not a geo-political disengagement, but how would it be viewed in Australia? You may want to contain these issues within their relevant spheres, but, and this is one thing the Marxists do get right, everything is political. So on the one hand Australia sees that the U.S. doesn't want to help them train anymore, which they will recognise as bad for their defence posture, and on the other hand if your reasoning (which I don't entirely disagree with) is communicated how is that then heard? To be honest I struggle to see how it is heard as anything other than the U.S. saying that Australian forces aren't good enough to play with the 'big boys' and no matter how true that is or not, it does not (I think you would agree) foster a desire on their part to fight along side you. Now if that is contained to the naval sphere (where you argue the contribution would be so small as to be meaningless, I suspect that Nelson with his longing for more frigates may disagree with you incidentally) then that is fine, but what if it isn't. After all you can say it is only on this matter but not others, but Australia gets a choice too. Depending on how badly the Australian reaction was, if they were pushed to an actual stance of neutrality, would would that mean for Five Eyes? How valuable is that alliance to the U.S.? Would you want to risk Australian ports being closed to U.S. ships in the case of war? Also what is the representational to both sides (which is no small matter in Asia) if the U.S. is seen by third parties to be disengaging (even in part) from one of it's oldest allies?

      In your original post you listed a number of nations that you would discontinue this training with. No I admit that I am no sailor, but I can just about read a map, and however limited the contribution that Norway or Denmark could make, any confrontation with Russia those countries geography if nothing else will matter. There may be African nations with more valuable (to the U.S.) forces, but not one of those is a NATO member. When you have a president that says NATO is past it's sell by date, and if the U.S. Navy won't train alongside forces that in the event of a European war you would be fighting alongside (irrespective of ability as this is a political not a military question) then what you have done, I would argue, is set the U.S. Navy up so as NOT to train for actual war. Which I admit to finding odd as you have on many occasions argued against unrealistic training!

    4. 2/2

      In short I don't think you have (at least i see nothing to suggest you have) given enough though to the second and third order effects of what you suggest.

      On your point re the UK.

      I am an interested historian not a sailor as I have said. However I am pretty sure you are on a couple of points factually wrong. Specifically you make the point about the RN not having "state of the art large area radar and combat systems like Aegis" which I think is only true if you only accept that that can be true if the system in question IS Aegis! The Type 45's are (apparently) world class area air defence destroyers. Over priced and too few in number certainly, but the RN seems to think that (for the air defence mission) it is on a par with Aegis.

      You say that RN ships have limited functionality, if I understand you correctly (in terms of the variety of missions they can perform?) then, ironically I would think that is something you would celebrate! the Type 23 are generally viewed as first class ASW frigates, and not much else, but then that was what they were designed for. The 45's were designed for AAW. They don't do much else but they do that well. But that is by design. The RN hasn't gone down the route of the U.S. Navy with a class like the Burkes that as you have argued can do many things, often all at the detriment of each other.

      Similarly with the carriers, as it happens I am not a fan of the STOVL design for a number of reasons, but what is clear is that although we do know that the operation of the carriers will be influenced by U.S. practice, it is not an attempt to replicated U.S. practice. At least not entirely. I would be wary of making a judgement on how useful that capability would be until such time as it is clearer what exactly that capability, well, will be!

      Really there are two ways you can approach this. You can either decide what you want from an ally and insist that they provide it or are not an ally, which will not work between democracy's, or you can encourage the development of certain specialities in your smaller partners (which is what I believe happened with regards RN ASW capability during the late Cold War). My worry (as someone that accepts and welcomes American global leadership as an excellent second choice since sadly Britain is no longer able to fulfil the role ;) ) is that America is beginning to expect to expect other countries to follow without actually even trying to offer leadership. I am aware this goes beyond the confines of your argument, but as I say I think it has to.

    5. "Nelson with his longing for more frigates may disagree with you"

      Only if he was short of frigates - which he was - and had a vital use/need for them. That's kind of my point in the post. The US Navy has no need for low end frigates. We have plenty of surface warships. We could always use more top end surface ships in a major war but low end ships are of no real value. Had Nelson had all the frigates he needed, he would not particularly have wanted more and certainly not from a foreign navy.

    6. I think you're vastly overstating the subsequent order effects of skipping a few military cross training exercises. Governments aren't going to collapse and world orders aren't going to realign because the US and Australia skipped an exercise.

      If skipping a few small exercises is going to totally negate all the intergovernmental contacts, embassies, trade agreements, cultural exchanges, intel sharing, and the like that occurs on a continual basis then the relationship was doomed anyway.

      I am also not against the US providing training to foreign militaries. If some country wants to send personnel to the US to be trained on some system it happens to have in common, that's great.

    7. "U.S. Navy won't train alongside forces that in the event of a European war you would be fighting alongside"

      That's my whole point!!!!! In a major war, the US will NOT be fighting alongside a Norway or Denmark. We'll be fighting independently albeit towards a common goal. Those countries would be hard pressed to simply defend their own coastline let alone contribute to a US Navy task force. That being the case, what's the point of cross training?

    8. "America is beginning to expect to expect other countries to follow without actually even trying to offer leadership."

      Global leadership is a geopolitical issue and well beyond the scope of this blog. I also happen to agree that American leadership has been severely lacking for the last 8 years, at least. Trump is beginning to reassert some leadership and we'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

    9. Leviathan,

      I liked that you hit on demographics as a cog into the overall strength China and India, but it is more than a cog it is huge part. China's demographics are terrible, they are rapidly aging and will soon be older than the U.S. More and more money will be spent on the elderly while at the same time the elderly will not be saving for retirement/investing and generating cheap capital. Combine this with the global loss of cheap capital from the retirement of the Boomer generation then China loses access to money to expand military wise. Note this will hit everyone hard, except for America. The U.S. is the only country where the Boomers had enough children to pay for their retirement. Their demographics will remain stable while every other developed country will not. In essence, capital that is used to develop countries will become extremely expensive, again except for America where it will still be more expensive that it currently is but not grossly expensive. After the Boomer generation dies off in the U.S. the budget crunch will cease.

      You hit the nail on the head when it comes to unfriendly neighbors, China must spend money to defend against them while the U.S. doesn't. But you seemed to miss energy which China is reliant on the M.E. for, block the straits in Oceania and they cannot function properly. The U.S. is energy independent from outside of North America thanks to shale and China cannot simply take advantage of their shale potential due to its high long term capital costs.

      Next we have food, China is not food independent either, they again rely on an open Oceania to import their food. The U.S. on the other hand has the largest contiguous arable land in the world and are fully food independent.

      My overall all point being that China will never be a superpower, their demographics and geography will not allow it. ComNavOps believes they want world domination, but it does not matter what they want they cannot have it. Yes, China's economy will continue to grow for a bit but as their demographic bust as well as the global demographic busts comes to fruition their economy will ultimate begin to shrink. Lastly, China's economy is totally reliant on the U.S. Navy's protection of global free trade and if the U.S. wanted it would be no more. U.S. giveth and U.S. taketh away.

    10. Regarding the Type 45, I have stated repeatedly that I am not an RN expert by any means. That said, I have seen no tests or data that indicates that the 45's sensors, missiles, and combat systems equate to the Aegis. All I have seen is manufacturer's claims which are always wildly exaggerated. If I'm wrong about this and you can point me to some data, I'll gladly acknowledge it.

    11. I stand by my limited functionality statement. I described how the RN carrier is limited by lack of an effective AEW and EW aircraft, small air wings, and short ranged aircraft (the F-35B). To the best of my knowledge, the RN has no long range strike missile equivalent to Tomahawk.

      The Type 23 is a good but not great ASW vessel. For example, it carries only a single helo which severely limits the ship's ASW capability. It lacks a hull mounted sonar (? not completely sure about that ?). And so on.

      The RN lacks any supporting long range ASW and patrol aircraft.

      And so on. As I said, limited functionality. What they have varies from not bad to good but the limitations are significant.

    12. "My overall all point being that China will never be a superpower, their demographics and geography will not allow it."

      That's a fascinating premise. I would not, though, that your conclusions do not take into account the iron-fisted role (and rule) of the government. A totalitarian government is not nearly as dependent on market forces. China can simply dictate what it wants. The Soviet Union, for example, did this for many years although, notably, it did collapse, perhaps supporting your contention.

      I also note that China is working diligently to develop alternative sources of energy and alternative methods and routes of delivery (the pipeline project with Russia, for example, will provide an untouchable energy supply route unless the US is willing to attack Russia).

      Regardless, excellent comment!

    13. ComNavOps,

      Forgive my spelling errors on my previous post, thank goodness it wasn't an academic post. As for your reply, no I was not including China's totalitarian government. In my opinion it should allow them to adjust and change better than other countries, but all in all their current economy is designed around free trade. On the other hand, the U.S. economy does not need overseas trade to prosper, North and South America make up the vast majority of U.S. trade. This raises the question: if America does not rely on overseas trade then why does America continue to use its navy to keep the sea lanes open? Now, this was easy to answer thirty years ago when the U.S. relied on M.E. oil and used protected free trade to strategically align countries in their favor against the Soviets. Today, America is no longer in a Cold War with the Russians or reliant on foreign oil, not counting Canada.

      I'm currently half way through "The Accidental Superpower" by Peter Zeihan which discusses the talking points in this and my previous post. He is a Geopolitical strategist. Anyway, I'm not trying to advertise or sell his book, I just want to make sure he gets credit for much of the thoughts illustrated here.

    14. ComNavOps,

      Regarding the Type 45, I believe one of the major limiting factors of the ship is that is was not given or has not been upgraded with CEC or cooperative engagement capability/NIFC-CA like system. I assume this means their future F-35b fleet are unable to relay info back to the ship and control a missile fired from it. This is all speculative, I have not done research into this and all the information presented here come from casual reading from forums, so take this with a grain of salt.

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    17. "one can construe many of China's recent activities as elements of a grand strategy designed to reduce China's vulnerability to trade disruptions"

      Absolutely outstanding perspective and one I happen to agree with.

      Great comment!

  8. You've written some stump dumb things, but to write off a faithful ally with a significant navy because you read a poll funded by a potential adversary on a blog is a very special effort.

    1. I would normally delete this comment for being disrespectful and not give it a second thought but you raise such a good point that I'm compelled to respond and leave it for others to contemplate.

      Your point is very well taken and recognized. There is great danger in extrapolating from limited data. That raises the question - why do it if it's dangerous and potentially unreliable? The answer is because if we wait until we have absolute data - for example, if we wait until every person in Australia has been polled so that we know definitively how the entire country feels - it is too late to act. If we wait until a war actually occurs to see what Australia will do, it's too late to act. It's like seeing a tiny fire in a house that may or may not grow. We don't know which but if we wait to see, it's too late to take useful action if it does grow.

      In short, anyone can "analyze" news if they wait until every possible piece of data is known - that's pointless, though, because by then it's too late to act.

      On this blog, I analyze incomplete data so as to take action before it's too late. I recognize that runs the risk of occasionally being wrong and if that ever happens, I'll gladly acknowledge it. It hasn't happened yet but it could. True leaders are those few who can analyze and predict based on incomplete data. ComNavOps is one of the few.

      If you read the post and comments, you'll note that I do not "write off" Australia. That's just you sensationalizing. You'll also note that I noted in the blog that the poll was funded by a Chinese citizen and thus potentially suspect.

      Regarding your disrespect, would it hurt you to displaying common courtesy? You could have made your point without resorting to a personal attack. It's highly unlikely that you'll be granted a second opportunity.

  9. Slightly off topic, but can resist. Re:RN

    1) The Royal Navy uses Tomahawk.

    2) Type 23, if its good not great, name me a better current ASW frigate ?

    3) RN AAW, name me another navy that has actually shot down a anti ship missile, incoming, on target, on a cruiser in wartime ?

    On the Australia question if you add up all the HM ships, youll find its quite a significant amount.

    Plus of course naval power doesn't just extend from ships, HM terratories control some very critical sea. And represent many secure strategic bases in key areas of the world. just a thought.


    1. What RN ships carry Tomahawk?

      The Type 23 is good but not great and I've listed why. There are no great ASW ships. The western navies have allowed ASW to atrophy. The RN may be as good as it gets but it's not great.

      I'm guessing you're referring to the Falklands conflict when you talk about shooting down missiles. Aside from the fact that an isolated incident that happened 35 years ago proves nothing about today's AAW capabilities, if you want to cite that as "proof" of AAW capability, you have to also cite the sinking of HMS Sheffield as "proof" of lack of AAW capability. It cuts both ways.

    2. Actually I meant HMS Gloucester in defence of USS Missouri

      And the "Gibralta" aspect, of Australias position as a controlled protected portion of ocean, from which USN fleet to operate from in case of an action on China. I would have thought that would be worth something ?

    3. "Australias position as a controlled protected portion of ocean, from which USN fleet to operate"

      That is worth something. Did I say otherwise?

    4. Well really I guess what I’m saying is that the RAAF and related assets are pretty powerful.

      This really is what allows them to control their waters.

      In any theoretical war with China, Australia is going to at the very least allow basing.

      This is the minimum support the US is likely to get I think.

      And given their set up of some quite incredible AESA land base arrays ( see Jindalee AESA, very interesting ) and RAAF, nothing is getting within hundreds of miles of AUS.

      This in of itself is really quite an asset, regardless of your view of the RAN fleet position.

      And this I think justifies Australia as an Ally.

      Its mutually beneficial the US has the fleet, The Aussies have the base.

    5. "And this I think justifies Australia as an Ally."

      I repeat, who said Australia was not worth having as an ally? You're arguing against something that was never said!


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