Size matters when it comes to Defence. Now Australia’s current force and fuel supplies are too small to see us survive any regional war.

Size matters in defence and the Australian Defence Force and national fuel stocks are too small to “credibly” repel a regional aggressor in either a lead or support role, an inquiry has concluded.

And Australia should tap the newly inked AUKUS pact treaty partners on using biofuels for war fighting craft before any submarine talk, with national fuel stocks unlikely to see the nation through a sustained crisis.

These are the main findings in a defence and foreign affairs committee report tabled to parliament after an eight month review of our national defences in 2020 and what needs to be done for next year.

RAAF No. 11 Squadron pilot, Flight Lieutenant Gus Wheeler, conducts pre-flight checks of the P-8A Poseidon spy aircraft before a mission on Operation Resolute, protecting our northern approaches Picture: Defence

While the Federal Government and notably Defence Minister Peter Dutton continues to raise the prospect of Australian involvement in some form of conflict should China invade Taiwan and Japanese island territory in South China Sea, the committee has suggested our ADF could struggle.

It made six recommendations for what it found were shortfalls including the need for a review into the size of the ADF “to ensure a more sustainable and credible conventional force” is available for potential sustained operations.

“With a full-time force of only 58,600 and a much smaller number of frontline combat personnel the Committee is concerned that the ADF is too small to credibly field sufficient rotational combat forces for protracted high-end combat operations, either as a lead or contributing nation,” it concluded.

Petroleum Operators from 17th Sustainment Brigade, 7 Brigade and 3 Brigade conducted Exercise Overland Nautical Petros 21, at the Cowley Beach Training Area in Queensland this month. Picture: Defence

Petroleum Operators from 17th Sustainment Brigade, 7 Brigade and 3 Brigade conducted Exercise Overland Nautical Petros 21, at the Cowley Beach Training Area in Queensland this month. Picture: Defence

It compared this sized force with China 2.1 million military personnel, India 1.46 million, South Korea 599,000 and even Vietnam 482,000.

That said, the committee concluded it was time Australian Defence saw itself less a “perpetual goal keeper” and consider itself as an asymmetric threat. This could include things like acquiring nuclear technology from the US and UK for submarine warfare as well high tech war fighting precision guided missile instruments.

On that front it suggested the government and Defence leverage the AUKUS pact to collaborate with US and UK militaries to develop drop-in biofuels, produced from biomass using biological, thermal, and chemical processes, for military use should a crisis limit petroleum fuels.

HMAS Sirius conducted a final tour of Australia ahead of the fuel and supply ship’s decommissioning in December. Picture: DefenceHMAS Sirius conducted a final tour of Australia ahead of the fuel and supply ship’s decommissioning in December. Picture: Defence

National fuel supplies were a critical security issue, for both defence and civilian, and the committee was concerned whether both could be sustained in the event of a crisis like a conflict when shipping lanes transporting 90 per cent of our fuel, could be threatened or cut.

Committee chair and former Australian Army aviator Senator David Fawcett said it was time for Australia to step-up.

The US Government has awarded a tender to construct a $270 million fuel storage facility in Darwin, to support US defence operations in the region. The Crowley fuel storage facility will be built in the site pictured next to the Volpak site. Picture: Glenn Campbell

The US Government has awarded a tender to construct a $270 million fuel storage facility in Darwin, to support US defence operations in the region. The Crowley fuel storage facility will be built in the site pictured next to the Volpak site. Picture: Glenn Campbell

“The global geostrategic environment is changing at a rate and on a scale much greater than was anticipated towards the end of the last decade,” he said.

Military modernisation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in ‘grey-zone’ capabilities and tactics has added a layer of complexity to Australia’s strategic challenges which must be met in an equally high-paced and agile manner if we are to maintain a credible defensive deterrent,” Senator Fawcett said.

Extracted in full from: Australian Defence Force review of fuel supplies needed to fight China | The Courier Mail

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