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ASPI think-tank criticises Australian DoD's strategic planning

The decision-making processes of Australia's Department of Defence (DoD) have placed the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in “an extremely precarious position” and can only be described as a failure of strategic planning, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a leading Australian defence think-tank.

In a special report entitled ‘Delivering a Stronger Navy Faster', ASPI senior analyst Marcus Hellyer says that unconstrained capability ambitions in both the country's Future Frigate and Future Submarine programmes have resulted in unbounded cost, time-consuming design work, and schedules extending “far beyond what was envisaged when the programmes were established”.

“Despite the risks, Defence's main mitigation strategy is simply to extend the lives of current platforms and incrementally improve their capability at a time when threats, particularly to surface vessels, are rapidly growing,” according to the report.

A fundamental reconsideration of how the DoD assesses its requirements and develops solutions for them is just as important as identifying remedies for the looming capability shortfalls that the DoD has created for itself, the report added.

Meanwhile, potential opportunities to provide new combat capabilities to the RAN's surface fleet over the next 10 years by utilising the digitally enabled shipyards built for the Future Frigate and Future Submarine programmes include vessels based on the hulls of the RAN's under-construction and lightly armed 1,640-tonne Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).

These could be equipped with anti-ship missiles and smart air, surface, and undersea autonomous systems to generate distributed mass and effect, and complicate any adversary's decisions, the report suggests.

“They won't be multirole vessels – which avoids the spiralling complexity and cost we see with the Hunter class (Future Frigate) – but they'd operate in tailored taskforces with other vessels,” the report added.

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