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Special Report: Australia to accentuate maritime capabilities amid China's coercion

A Royal Australian Navy Hobart-class guided-missile destroyer fires a Harpoon surface-to-surface missile during Exercise ‘Pacific Vanguard' 2022. The class will be equipped with the Naval Strike Missile in the future. (Commonwealth of Australia)

The Australian government has released two more policy documents that outline its defence development intentions over the next few years. The two documents – National Defence Strategy (NDS) 2024 and Integrated Investment Program (IIP) 2024 – were unveiled by Australia's Minister of Defence Richard Marles on 17 April.

The new policies follow Australia's Defence Strategic Review (DSR) – issued in April 2023 – and its evaluation of surface combatant capabilities, which was released earlier in 2024.

As outlined in the IIP 2024, the Australian government is projected to spend AUD765 billion (USD496 billion) in the decade between 2024 and 2034 on defence programmes. This amount includes an additional AUD56 billion above the previous trajectory that was forecast for this period.

A notable feature of this projected spending for 2024–34 is the proportion that will be allocated towards the maritime domain, which is by far the most when compared with others. The maritime domain represents 38% of this projected spending while the land and air domains will represent about 16% and 14% respectively. The remainder will be allocated towards the enterprise and infrastructures (22%), cyber (7%), and space (3%) domains.

A clue that may explain this relatively large allocation can be found in the NDS, which highlighted China's employment of “coercive tactics” in pursuing its national objectives including “forceful handling of territorial disputes and unsafe intercepts of vessels and aircraft operating in international waters and airspace”.

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