Australian Defence Policy in Flux: The Perspective of Brendan Sargeant


By Robbin Laird

The strategic shift from the land wars in the Middle East to the challenges of facing the 21st century authoritarian powers has recast the defense challenges facing the liberal democracies.

Direct defense has returned as the core challenge facing the European states, even while the EU is in crises and the question of how to defend Europe with the forces that exist is an open question.

Australia has had growing impact on European defense through its deployment of integrated capabilities into the fight in the Middle East, and its growing relationships with a number of key states in Europe as well.

This means that any rethink by Australia has an impact beyond the Pacific back into Europe itself.

This certainly can be seen in Canada and the UK where a common frigate is being worked, one in which Canada and Australia are overwhelmingly the major players, and will certainly shape what that frigate ends up deploying in terms of its combat systems as well as other aspects.

The new build submarine in France is also about a dynamic interaction and reshaping between Australian and French industries with the French reintroducing emphasis on the Chinese challenge along with dealing with any reset of defense policy in Europe itself.

And as Australia considers how best to prepare for the crises facing it in the Pacific region, there is a growing recognition of the force evolution which they are working requires integration of their own force to be able to exercise sovereign options as well as close integration of that force evolution with the United States and Japan as the primary allies in the region.

In effect, the working relationship among the militaries of the liberal democracies have become the eco-skeleton for how those states can work together in practical terms during a crisis.

But what remains is the major question of how the diverse states of the “West” will work together diplomatically and politically in a crisis.

The strategic shift from the land wars to full spectrum crisis management is a significant one requiring major shifts in how states will operate independently and collectivley.

At the recent Williams Foundation seminar dealing with the strategic shift, one of the most experienced Australian defense policy makers look at the nature of that shift in his presentation at the seminar.

Professor Brendan Sargeant provided his thoughts in his contribution entitled, “Australian Defence Policy in Flux,’ and given that Australia is soon to face a major rewrite of its defense policy with a new government coming to power, the issues presented by Sargeant are hardly only of academic interest.

His presentation follows.

The topic – Australian Defence Policy in Flux – is a large topic, which can be approached from many different perspectives.

The approach I want to take is to discuss the three recent White Papers (2009, 2013 and 2016) and how they have embodied a response to changes in the world. I want to put forward some propositions about what they mean when looked at in the perspective of the last twenty years and the changes we have seen in the world, and what they might say about the future

The Nature of Defence Policy

But first some thoughts about policy. The defence policy challenge for Australia is relatively enduring, and the tensions that policymakers seek to deal with are stable over time. Some of these tensions, or perhaps a better description is the poles that shape policy choices, include:

Our strategic ambition, which is large, against the limits of our capacity.

We need to and want to be able to operate autonomously, particularly in our near region, but the alliance with United States exerts tremendous gravitational pull on policy and has an enormous shaping influence that flows into the force structure.

Another tension is in how much power we want to create for ourselves against the limits of our size.

How much focus should we give to any region, as opposed to deployments and operations that are more distant.

Related to this is how much we want to invest for strike and deterrence against other capabilities that might have more immediate utility.

Most policy debates revolve around these and some other fundamental questions. If you consider defence policy over a long period of time, there is a great deal of continuity in the arguments and debates, and often these arguments, always resolved provisionally, express that resolution in differences of emphasis. Internal stakeholders tend to magnify difference for reasons of institutional and political imperative.

Yet, from the perspective of time and distance, I think it is fair to say that we are going through a period of major change in our strategic environment and that policy responses, as expressed in both official documents and decisions governments have made, including the allocation of resources, show that we are and have been for the last two decades in a period of uncertainty about the direction of defence policy and the nature of the choices before us.

The Strategic Order is Changing

I believe that there is now a broad consensus in the policy and academic community that we are going through a fundamental period of change in the world, and that the strategic order in which we have lived and prospered for the last 70 years is now in question and changing.

My view is that we are in a new world, but we don’t yet understand what that world is. Another way of putting it, is that we are at the beginning of the birth of a new strategic order across the Indo Pacific. There is much debate about what this means, and no agreement about the future. And I don’t think we’re going to get clarity anytime soon,  so we can expect to live with uncertainty for some time to come.

The focus of much discussion is on China, because of the spectacular growth in the Chinese economy and the extraordinary changes we are seeing within that country. China’s posture to the world has changed. At the centre has been the pursuit of the Belt and Road strategy, which is emerging as a geostrategic intervention in the global system, as well as a geo-economic initiative. Activities such as island building in the South China Sea, including the militarisation of the islands has called into question China’s strategic goals and whether they are as benign as Chinese government statements suggest.

It is clear that neither China nor the US are now status quo powers. Both seek change in the strategic order and, in different ways, want to reset it. But we are also seeing extraordinary economic growth in other countries – India and the ASEAN countries, and Japan remains economically and militarily powerful. The United States also continues to be an economic powerhouse across the Indo Pacific.

These changes have been gathering pace, and what I have noticed is that the conversation in the last eighteen months has changed. Even if some discussion is about preservation of past patterns of policy and frameworks, and if the level of change has not yet entered the public political discourse in proportion to what is going on, I think there is broad agreement in academic and policy communities that we are in a new world.

As time passes, I think it is increasing apparent that we have been in a new world for some time.

Within institutions and government, the discussion on policy and strategy is usually focused on specific decisions and on budgets. So, to really understand a government’s policy, one must not only to look at declaratory statements, such as white papers, but also the cumulative impact of decisions over time. I think it is now possible to discern a broad pattern over the last 20 years and to draw some preliminary conclusions, which I propose to do in remainder of this discussion. I want to do this through the lens of the three white papers I mentioned above.

The Strategic Challenge for Policy

My broad proposition is that the story of defence policy over the last two decades has been a slow coming to terms with the limits of our power. Reflecting on the major documents and decisions, I would argue that there is a thread of anxiety that pulls through all of them. This anxiety might be expressed in the question:

Are we capable of marshaling and deploying defence resources sufficient to deal with the challenges of the Indo Pacific strategic environment?

So, what do the White Papers say?

The Nature of White Papers

First, the word about white papers. Every white paper tells the story of this moment, even as it tries to set direction for the future. White papers are collective efforts, and even though there may be a single presiding author, they contain many voices and many ideas.

They try to impose a narrative on events, but events have a way of evading this.

They function as high level policy documents and are important for setting strategic direction for Defence as a whole, but they do not resolve every argument, nor do they provide definitive clarity on the many micro choices involved in developing and implementing Defence policies.

It is important to recognise that they are provisional documents, and to some extent they are out of date as soon as they are printed.

However, that said, they also represent part of a conversation over time. This conversation is about the nature of Australia’s strategic environment, how it is changing, and how the risk that accrues as a result of this change might be mitigated. So, when reading white papers, it is important to see them within a longer continuum of thought and activity around defence policy and strategy, and understand that their significance will change as the future changes our understanding of the present.

2009 White Paper

In many ways the 2009 White Paper was a landmark document. Reading it now, one is struck by its ambitions and the multitude of policy directions that is laid down. Its ambition means that at some point it laboured to reconcile many of the tensions within it and of which are a feature of the Australian conversation about defence policy. It brings a refreshing focus to the near region, but it also places the alliance at the centre of defence and strategic policy.

There was some debate when it came out as to what it was saying about our strategic environment. Some commentators identified the paper as a document directed against China. It certainly can sustain this interpretation, though this is not necessarily how some of those who developed the document see it.

Its most important contribution was that it laid down the architecture and the program for a wholesale rebuild and renovation of the ADF.

At the time, we had absorbed the lessons of Timor and we had experienced the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we wanted to develop a force structure that strengthened our combat capability, and mobility, and our ability to operate with our Alliance partner at the high end. The White Paper’s most important achievement was to recognise that the world of 2030 – the world we needed Force 2030 for  – was going to be very different to the world of 2009, and it recognised that the force structure and capability underpinning the ADF had to embody a step change. So, my reading is that the underlying strategy was to hedge against future uncertainty by building capability through a significant investment in the development of ADF capability. This idea has lasted, while many other elements of the White Paper can be disputed or have suffered the ravages of time and experience.

The problem with the 2009 White Paper was that it was developed just as a global financial crisis was being dealt with by the government, and subsequent years demonstrated that the policy aspirations embodied in the vision of the future force were not sustainable within the parameters of the government’s fiscal policy.

The 2013 White Paper

The 2013 White Paper was developed by the government to try and close the gap between policy aspirations and budgetary reality. It did this by adjusting the level resources that might be devoted to developing the force structure, which meant in practical terms and parts of the investment program scheduled in the 2009 White Paper would slip. But importantly, it preserved the design of the force.

It was also more focused on our immediate regions as the area of priority for Australia in establishing force structure priorities. It was very much a document that sought to close the gap between policy aspiration and budget.

However, it did have one very important policy achievement, which was to express the idea of the Indo Pacific as a framework for thinking about our strategic environment and understanding how policy might respond to that environment. It was a first time that the idea of the Indo Pacific was expressed in an Australian defence document. There are, of course, many Indo Pacific’s, but what the White Paper was trying to do this was return Australian strategic policy to a much older conception of our national interests, which was to focus on the archipelago to our north. It argued that this was where our interests are most directly engaged. By implication, the most significant strategic relationship for Australia remained with Indonesia.

The other big idea was it Indo Pacific was a community of nations, and notwithstanding the economic growth of China, it was important to recognise that there were other major countries; an alternative’s future might be the establishment of a sense of shared community of interest, rather than a world dominated by one power or bifurcated between two. In this respect, the White Paper’s argument was that the single biggest strategic challenge for Australia was the establishment of a regional or Indo Pacific architecture that enabled countries to understand and  respond effectively to the problems that would emerge in the future.

The 2016 White Paper

The 2016 White Paper was an important document because it restored the underlying funding framework that the 2009 White Paper envisaged but was never able to sustain. The underlying vision of the force that was evident in 2009 was reinvigorated in the 2016 White Paper and a funded investment program was established. This was an important achievement.

The 2016 White Paper also recognised that Defence was more than the ADF, but also included the broader Defence system. We saw a much more sophisticated recognition of the importance of enablers (what Nick Warner in a landmark speech when he was Secretary had called the broken backbone of Defence). It put renewed emphasis on defence industry, particularly with the recognition that industry is an element of capability.

At the heart of this White Paper was a recognition that we needed to rebuild the Australian Navy, so the shipbuilding agenda, which we are all now grappling with, was born in that document.

But it also had two other very interesting features. One was that it removed the prioritisation framework for the development of the force structure that had been evident in the 2013 and 2009 papers, and in preceding papers such as the one in 2000, 1994 and most importantly, the one in 1987. It was a significant break with the past. This is perhaps the most controversial element of the paper.

But perhaps the most interesting element of the 2016 document was that it gave enormous priority to the maintenance of the Rules Based Order, a theme that also occurs in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper. The 2016 Defence White Paper has many achievements, but its focus on the Rules Based Order is now starting to look a bit wistful.

Different Strategies for the Same Large Challenge

When we look at this conversation over time, we can see one common thread. We are trying to think through the strategic challenge of an Indo Pacific that is undergoing enormous change. We are seeing what I would describe as provisional response to a number of tectonic shifts – the emergence of China as a pre-eminent regional power and potentially a global power; and the emergence of thinking that suggests that though the United States may not leave the region (as some of the more apocalyptic analysis suggests), the terms of its engagement and therefore its alliance and partnership arrangements are likely to change. At minimum, allies and partners will be required to do more to secure their own defence.

In these white papers, we therefore have three different strategies responding to a single problem.

What they have in common is that they recognise the need for a larger, more capable ADF and supporting defence system. Capability building has been the golden thread that links the work of the last twenty years. But it has been capability building as a hedge against uncertainty.

I think that it’s now time to ask the question whether building capability is sufficient as a defence policy response to the future.

The development of capability is important, perhaps the most important element of defence policy, but also important is understanding how they capabilities might need to be used in the future. How should we shape the force to respond to future crises? How we think about that question will in part determine how we want to evolve capabilities, and how powerful and sustainable we will want the force to be. Have we thought sufficiently about how we might need to use defence capability in the future, and are we building for that day or days?

When I look at the three white papers, and I stand back and reflect on what they are saying, my sense is that they are are not sure (which means that we are not sure) of how the world is going to evolve or of Australia’s place in it. We manage this risk by building defence capability that allows us to hedge against the future while we wait for the future to tell us what it is going to be. The significant changes we have seen in our strategic environment in the last few years suggests that this is an insufficient response.

The Defence Policy Challenge for the Future

I would frame the defence policy challenge for the future as thus:

How do we maximise our national power through the ADF? Or, how do we ensure that the ADF can support our capacity as a country to sustain our strategic space?

This question is not primarily of how much capability we might have in the existing and prospective force structure. It is also a question of the direction in which we want to develop that latent capability on the basis of how we might want or need to use it in the future. To be blunt: for example, how are we going to use the joint strike fighter  and Growler strategically to maximise our strategic space? How will we use our new maritime capabilities to secure and advance our strategic position in an increasingly crowded Indo Pacific?

Defence policy will continue to be in flux. We need a larger conversation not only about how the world might change and how the strategic order might evolve, but the role of Defence in helping Australia manage its response to a changing strategic order, and of the circumstances in which we might want to use the force in the future.

Some Final Observations

I am currently working my way through the official history of the Internet Operation in East Timor as part of the process of declassifying the book before it is published. It has led me to reflect on many things. There are some big lessons.

One is that we don’t know what crises might emerge in the future, and responding to them always brings major risk, both to capability and to operational capacity.

The second is that we need to be prepared to lead when there is a crisis. Leadership means understanding not only the capability of the force, but also how it might be used strategically to shape the broader environment within which the crisis occurs and is resolved through operational interventions.

Additional Observations About the Way Ahead

In comments on the Sargeant presentation, one observer added the following:

I see the 1994 Defence White Paper and the ‘here and now’ realities of our strategic environment in 2019 as two book ends of a 25 year story.  This 25 year story bears out your framework.  From 1994 to 2009 the strategic assessments were sound and the capability plans were sound, but until 2009 we didn’t really contemplate using the ADF or other Defence capabilities in a major contingency for most of this period; and that’s not to down-play our role in the Middle East and Central Asia since the early 2000s.
The 2009 DWP didn’t anticipate the pace of Chinese military modernisation. Did anyone?

We now need to contemplate force being against us and Australia using serious force in response. That’s your key point I believe.

Looking back, the 1994 DWP, 1997 review of Australia’s Strategic Policy and the 2000 DWP were in my view quite strong on capability. The chapter on capability in the 1994 DWP continues the narrative that was developed in the Dibb Review and 1987 DWP. It’s still respectable 25 years later as an overview of the essentials of the force structure; the debate now is around self-protection and lethality of our systems – maritime (air and sea), undersea, on land. And now I’m space and cyberspace.

The Defence Capability Plan that was developed in support of the 2000 DWP was the intellectual and actual start point for the 2008 FSR that supported the 2009 DWP, notwithstanding the iterations the DCP went through in the mid-2000s.

The 1994 DWP says ‘Our strategic circumstances at present are not threatening, but they are likely to become more demanding over the next fifteen years.’

Interestingly it says ‘Australia’s strategic stance is, in the broadest possible sense, defensive. We will not use armed force except to defend our national interests, and we do not envisage resorting to armed force other than in response to the threat of force by others. We have no disputes with other countries which might be expected to give rise to the use of force, and no reason to expect that disputes of that sort will develop.’

Those words were written 25 years ago. In the minds of the writers (good FDA types), there was the sense that the substantial threat of force against us or our interests was a remote prospect in the 15 year horizon. Compare that sense with what the next 25 years may look like.

The 1994 DWP also says ‘We recognise that at some time in the future armed force could be used against us and that we need to be prepared to meet it.’ Again though the sense us that this contingency is a distant prospect.

The 1997 review ‘Australia’s Strategic Policy’ is worth a look. It is good on North Asian evolving dynamics. Ínter alía it says ‘China is already the most important factor for change in the regional strategic environment.’ It adds     further on that ‘This expansion of China’s military capabilities does not constitute a threat to Australia or to the security of the region as a whole.’

The 2000 DWP was strong on capability. It assumed globalisation and continued US primacy as the two key trends that would shape our strategic environment. In 2019 we would have different words about both.

The 2009 DWP was the first to seriously contemplate upping our strategic weight, especially through the force structure. It also contemplated serious use of force against us.

The 2008 FSR was the start point for the work done on the FSR in the 2016 DWP. In effect the 2016 FSR built on the 2008 foundations but sought to redouble efforts to fund enabling capabilities.

Government did not have the appetite for a force structure review in 2013 but as you say the utility of that DWP was around the Indo-Pacific construct.

We have spent 2 decades iteratively building a force to meet our broad capability needs, but apart from the well-established and successful practice of niche contributions to coalition operations we have not really had the need for a serious discussion about how we might use those capabilities in a higher-end, contested conflict in the Indo-Pacific.

Editor’s Note: The strategic shift started for the liberal democracies with the 2014 Russian actions.

In the featured photo, Assistant Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Michael Outrim (L) is seen showing then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (2-L) an aerial view of the MH17 crash site during a visit to the Coordination Centre at the AFP headquarters in Canberra, Australia, 25 July 2014. Photo by Alan Porritt/EPA

In a recent interview with the former head of the Australian Defence Force, who took over as chief of the ADF, during this crisis, the beginning of the strategic shift was highlighted.

In effect, the events of 2014 have proven to be the launch point for the next phase of ADF development and enhanced recognition of its role in the defense of Australian sovereignty.

Air Marshal (Retired) Mark Binsken looked back at 2014 and the beginning of the reset.

“The government wanted to make national statement about the emerging threats and our ability, as a Nation, to respond.

“The ADF was at the forefront of that strategy.

“In addition, we had significant regional humanitarian operations to conduct in that timeframe as well.

“The ADF showed a lot of agility in being able to conduct operations globally, but we always did this in a whole of government approach in partnership with Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian intelligence organizations and the Australian Federal Police.

1914 and 2014: Two Key Strategic Turning Points



The Indian and Vietnamese Navies Conclude Bilateral Exercise

By India Strategic

New Delhi: In the backdrop of the growing maritime engagement between India and Vietnam, the Indian Navy undertook the second edition of the bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Vietnam Peoples’ Navy at/ off Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam from 13 to 16 Apr 19.

The maiden edition was conducted from 21 to 26 May 18 at Da Nang, Vietnam.

The exercise was undertaken as a part of the ongoing Overseas Deployment of Eastern Fleet ships to South East Asian countries.

IN Ships Kolkata under the command of Capt Aditya Hara and Shakti under the command of Capt Sriram Amur participated in the exercise, comprising a harbour and a sea phase.

The Indian Navy and the Vietnam Peoples’ Navy have traditionally shared good relations.

Conduct of the bilateral exercise on an annual basis would give a further fillip to the existing strong bilateral relation between the two countries, which since Sep 16 have been elevated to the level of ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ after the visit of the Hon’ble PM to Vietnam.

The Navy to Navy cooperation involves a Composite Training Programme in the fields of Submarine, Aviation and Dockyard training.

The two countries have also signed an agreement to exchange White Shipping Information and have a running ‘Information Sharing’ programme.

The Indian Navy-Vietnam Peoples’ Navy Bilateral Exercise is a significant step in further strengthening mutual confidence and inter-operability as well as sharing best practices between the Indian and the Vietnam Peoples’ Navies.

This article was first published by our partner India Strategic in April 2019.


French Naval Group and the Australians: Working the Cultural Challenges


By Pierre Tran


Naval Group (NG) is implementing a change in employee communications and behavior, in a bid to smooth out cultural differences between French and Australian staff working on a US $34 billion (A $50 billion) program to build submarines for the Australian Navy, senior executives said.

That drive to improve “intercultural” relations stems from Australians’ difficulties in understanding the French way of work soon after NG won a three-way competition in 2016 to build 12 ocean-going boats, dubbed the Attack submarine class.

These undersea vessels for Australia’s Sea 1000 Future Submarine Project will be a diesel-electric adaptation of the Barracuda, a nuclear-powered submarine NG is building for the French Navy.

The French company has sold Scorpene submarines and Gowind corvettes around the world, with a transfer of technology to allow local assembly. Among these, Brazil and India are building their Scorpene boats, while Egypt has assembled its first of four Gowind warships.

But this is the first time the company has been asked to rethink its cultural approach, as Australian-French teams were formed and problems of communications unfolded.

Reshaping a Work Culture

The aim is to develop a common working culture built from Australia and France, allowing these submarines to be built on time and on budget.

“Not everyone thinks like the French,” said Jean-Michel Billig, NG program director for the Attack submarine.

“We have to make a necessary effort to understand that an Australian does not think like a French person, and that it’s not better or worse, it’s just Australian.”

There is a need to organize the Attack program accordingly, he said. That includes translating French not just into English but Australian English.

There is need to go beyond that, “to speak a common language in cultural terms,” he added.

The importance of Australia as a distinct and important region can be seen by The Guardian, a British daily, publishing UK, US, International and Australia editions of its news website.

“Based on discussions, there is a willingness to know the qualities and faults of each other, not to use them but to converge, to find common points so we can work together, so we can deliver.” said Yvan Goalou, NG institutional relationship manager.

“There is search for openness and sharing.”

There is need for listening and humility, he said. Goalou is a former French Navy commander of both the nuclear-missile and nuclear-powered attack submarine.

Australian Barbecue as Cultural Signifier

An example of Australian culture is the barbecue, an important part of fostering good work relations, Billig said.

There is a reciprocal need for Australians to understand the French sanctity of the lunch break, not just a sandwich snatched at the screen.

Another bid by NG to boost its openness to “Anglo-Saxon culture” is publishing its inhouse magazine in French and English, seen internally as a radical move.

Big companies such as Airbus and Thales may have long published inhouse magazines in English and French, but an NG executive said those firms lack a 400-year history as a state arsenal.

Another need to bridge a cultural gap could be seen in the letter to staff from CEO  Hervé Guillou, who referred to initiatives to be adopted after “la rentrée.”

It had to be explained to Australians la rentrée that refers to staff going back to work in September after the company closed down for the month of August for the traditional French holiday. A one-month holiday stunned Australians who thought of a short “summer break.”

On the French side, there was surprise to see an Australian insistence on punctuality, that a meeting scheduled for an hour meant just that, not an extra 15 minutes. So when Australians got up and left a meeting whether an agreement had been reached or not, that startled French counterparts.

In France, there is the concept of a “diplomatic 15 minutes,” indicating that one is not considered to be late if the tardiness is a quarter of an hour.

NG pursues a “multidomestic” approach as it seeks deals with countries with distinct cultural difference such as Malaysia, Brazil or India, said Arnaud Génin, strategic communications director.

“One would think  Australia would be relatively easy because of ease of language, but the cultural difference goes deeper,” he said. “We have to work on that.”

Preparing French Staff

NG is training some 20 Australians on design and manufacture of the Attack boat at Cherbourg, northern France, and that is due to rise to more than 150 key staff. Some personnel are accompanied by their family and those Australians need to adapt to life in France.

Meanwhile, French staff are preparing to fly to the other side of the world and work in the Australian subsidiary in Adelaide, south Australia, where the boats will be built.

There are some 350 staff working on the program in France, with 100 in Australia.

In France, that staff tally will climb to a peak of 700 around 2021/22 before falling to 200 by 2030, as the work moves to Adelaide, Billig said. In Australia, the staff will rise “smoothly” to 1,500 in five to six years when the manufacturing hits full pace.

The company is developing tools for the intercultural courses, which include two-hour seminars and one-day workshops, Marion Accary, global human resources business partner said.

These aim to prepare French expatriates and their families “how to behave, how to understand and decode,” she said. “The staff will learn how to communicate, hold meetings and work in French-Australian teams. Personnel will also be encouraged to take distance from situations which might seem to be conflictual due to misunderstanding.”

There is also work in Australia to develop training and communications.

Separate seminars for French NG staff and Australians started last May in Cherbourg. The former includes the history of Australia as a way to explain the behavior of Australians, importance of defense, and strategic significance of the South Pacific for the Commonwealth of Australia.

In France, there is strong staff demand for English language courses. There is interest in learning French in Australia but it is harder to find teachers.

The willingness of French teams to take part in the intercultural program is an indirect indicator of a keenness to overcome cultural problems, Billig said. If there were an “evaporation” of that readiness, that would undermine the program.

Cultural play of Three Nations

NG will work with Lockheed Martin, which will supply the combat management system for the Attack boat. NG does not expect problems in working with the US company, as the French firm has worked with partners on other vessels.

“We will learn by working with Lockheed Martin on this program,” he said. “It will be a three-way process of cultural learning.”

NG will work with its local partner, state-owned ASC, formerly known as Australian Submarine Corporation, as well as working with the Australian authorities.

Asked if there is a change of business culture, Billig said the Australian program “has pushed Naval Group’s ambition a couple of ranks higher in the drive for a multidomestic approach.”

That intercultural approach is part of the technology transfer, as Australians want to extend know-how to know-why.

That requires a great deal more than handing over a sheet of paper and say, “Voilà, I have transferred technology,” Billig said. It is about explaining the French approach to building a submarine. The French way is not the German or Japanese way.

Current French Submarine Building Approach

The cultural factor is the French intellectual approach to building the submarine, he said. That reasoning led the French to adopt certain methods, allowing the French Navy to deploy a submarine permanently at sea for 47 years.

“That French method is a concentration of history,  competence, training, and the French ecosystem,” he said. “Part of the technology transfer baggage is having to explain what we do, why we do it this way, and it is not good enough to say you have to do it this way. If you said that, part of the know-how would have evaporated.”

That approach is offered to explain why the French aim to use water rather than laser to cut steel and use French rather than Australian steel.

“The French have a welding method, Americans have their own,” he said.

NG’s dedication to the Attack program reflects the company’s need to win — and retain — foreign deals, as the company cannot rely solely on the domestic market.  Australia picked the French firm in a competition which drew rival offers from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which led a Japanese group, backed by the Japanese government.

It is clear NG intends to deliver on the intercultural approach as the Commonwealth of Australia, buyer of the Attack submarine, saw the need to improve communications.

“The client asked for this effort,” Billig said.

“This is a key factor for success. It is not for us to be Australian, for them to become French. We keep our roots. We learn the culture of the other.”

Editor’s Note: This is the initial look at this dynamic between France and Australia. 

To be clear, this is not a technology transfer program of an existing submarine.

This is a co-development of a new build submarine.

As such, the opportunity on the French side is to redo, even significantly, how they build new classes of submarines going forward.

And at the heart of the challenge of working through the program is that the Australians intend in this program and in the frigate to build a manufacturing line around digital production of the sort that Naval Group does not currently do.

Different work styles are also at work, whereby the French follow an approach significantly different from the Australians, and there is likely not just to be cross-learning, but the possibility of significant change on the French side as well.

There is a very signifiant opportunity for Naval Group to expand its concepts of operations and production technologies and work appraoch through the program, something useful not just in Australia but in France and globally.

For example, an interesting question in play: What is the nature of the Barracuda being offered to the Dutch Navy and how does it relate to the Australian program?




The Chinese Military and Exploitation of Western Technology Firms

By Alex Joske

For more than a year, debate has raged over allegations that the Chinese military is taking advantage of Google’s research and expansion into China. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a senate committee in March that Google’s work in China indirectly benefits the Chinese military, an accusation echoed by President Donald Trump. Google’s response was unequivocal: ‘We are not working with the Chinese military.’

There is no evidence that Google has a direct relationship with the People’s Liberation Army, but, as with the collaboration seen between many Western universities and the PLA, artificial intelligence researchers from the Chinese military have worked with Western technology firms’ employees on research that could advance China’s military capability.

The situation reflects the lack of a clear policy on engagement with Chinese entities across universities, companies and governments.

A scientist from the PLA and a Google employee were among the five co-authors of a paperrelated to artificial intelligence published in January 2019. The lead author, Guan Naiyang, is an associate professor at the PLA National University of Defense Technology (NUDT). His research focuses on non-negative matrix factorisation, an algorithm used in machine learning.

Guan’s story is emblematic of the PLA’s efforts to leverage overseas expertise. He received all his university degrees from NUDT but worked abroad as a visiting PhD scholar. In 2012, he visited the University of Technology Sydney, studying under one of Australia’s leading AI researchers, who is also a visiting professor at NUDT. His doctoral thesis earned him top prizes from the PLA and the China Computer Federation. Australian law doesn’t yet regulate the transfer of technology and training to foreign nationals or members of foreign militaries who are physically in Australia.

Guan worked on three PLA projects about online-surveillance and intelligence-collection technology when he was a PhD student. From what little information is available, we can establish that at least one of the projects—focused on analysing intelligence sourced from the internet—relied on the same kind of technology discussed in the paper he co-authored with a Google employee.

Last year, two NUDT scientists worked at a lab at Princeton University as visiting scholars. Their supervisor and colleague at Princeton is also a senior staff research scientist at Google and worked with the NUDT scientists on computer vision. Other papers written by the NUDT scientists examined target detection in sea clutter and the automatic recognitionof objects including planes.

While most scientists in academia dedicate themselves to expanding our knowledge of the world, Guan’s goal, and the goal of PLA scientific research in general, is different. In 2016, he told a PLA newspaper: ‘I want to hasten the software development and application of high-performance computers, comprehensively propelling artificial intelligence toward the battlefield.’

Scientists like Guan and those who visited Princeton are among the thousands of PLA officers and cadres who have been sent abroad as PhD students or visiting scholars in the past decade. In Picking flowers, making honey, an ASPI report published last October, I analysed these activities in detail and showed how the Chinese military exploits the openness of academic institutions to improve its own technology and expertise. The report’s title comes from a saying the PLA has used to describe its international collaboration: ‘Picking flowers in foreign lands to make honey in China.’

Many Western companies and their employees have worked with the Chinese military in ways that could advance its intelligence and warfighting capabilities. A Financial Timesarticle recently uncovered Microsoft’s ties to Chinese military AI researchers. Since at least 2010, Microsoft’s Asian research arm has taken interns from the PLA.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that companies such as Google and Microsoft have been caught up in the PLA’s efforts to leverage domestic and overseas expertise. Universities often engage in little scrutiny of their Chinese partners; leading universities in Germany, Australia, Norway, the US and the UK have all accepted Chinese military officers who claimed to be from non-existent institutions as visiting scholars. Some companies and even governments have made similar mistakes.

It’s encouraging to see that efforts are emerging to develop clearer policy guidance and regulation to help universities and companies understand and address this critical national security problem, although much more needs to be done.

Collaboration with the PLA often crosses a red line, but activities that indirectly benefit the Chinese military pose a tough challenge. Military–civil fusion, the Chinese government policy that’s pushing the PLA to cultivate international research ties, is also building greater integration between Chinese civilian universities and the military. As ASPI non-resident fellow Elsa Kania has pointed out, Google’s work with Tsinghua University is worrying because of the university’s growing integration with the PLA.

This raises a troubling question: if a company, government or university is unable to control collaboration with overt Chinese military entities, how can it effectively manage more difficult areas, like collaboration with military-linked entities?

Without clear policies and internal oversight, Western tech firms that don’t intend to work with the PLA may have employees who are doing so. Greater debate and robust policies are needed to ensure that universities and companies avoid contributing to the Chinese military and technology-enabled authoritarianism, and don’t inadvertently give fuel to those wanting an end to all collaboration.

A starting point here is for governments to begin setting out clear policy guidance and improving export controls to target entities that universities and companies should not be collaborating with. In the meantime, self-regulation and internal oversight by these companies will help address government concerns—and help inform future regulation. Civil society—NGOs and media—can also develop resources to help universities improve their engagement with China. ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre is currently developing a database of Chinese military and military-linked institutions for this purpose.

This article was first published by ASPI on April 12, 2019.

Alex Joske is a researcher at ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre.

For a look at the impact of such efforts on the Soviet Union, see the following:

The Farewell Affair: The Theft of Technology and Caging the Russian Bear

Enhancing Australian Options in a Crisis: Shaping a More Sustainable Force


By Robbin Laird

The latest Williams Seminar held in Canberra on April 11, 2019 focused on the strategic shift for Australia within the context of the evolving global situation.

Facing the rising challenge posed by the 21stcentury authoritarian states, and by the changing nature of alliances in the Pacific and in Europe, Australia needs to enhance its capabilities to operate within a regional or global crisis.

And this requires, Australia to have more capability to sustain its evolving integrated force and to do so in the service of the direct defense of Australia.

The Williams seminars over the past five years have focused in detail on the reshaping of the Australian Defence Force as a more integrated force, one which can operate as integrated Australian force packages to work with allies or on their own.

The acquisition of the F-35 is seen as a trigger for accelerating the kind of force integration which Australia is seeking, namely a very capable force package within which fifth generation enablement enhances the lethality and survivability of modular force packages.

But to have such capability both for the direct defense of Australia and to work with allies.

It was clear from the latest Williams Seminar that this is not just a technical force packaging effort. It is part of a broader reset within Australian thinking about how to move ahead as the global competition changes.

As Williams Research Fellow, Dr. Alan Stephens put it, Australia needs to focus on Plan B:

“A military posture based on the premise that Australians will assume the burden of combat of defending their own country.”

“For most of our history, Australia has been unwilling to confront the imperatives of a defence posture which would require us to assume the burden of responsibility. Consequently, when faced with our only existential threat, in World War II, we were left dangerously exposed; while on other occasions, the apparent need to pay regular premiums on Plan A has drawn us into morally dubious wars of choice.

“In short, Plan A has distorted our strategic thinking and compromised our independence.

“If Australian defence is to be credibly self-reliant – if we are to have a Plan B – we can start by looking to the examples of those individuals and local industries that have challenged traditionalists and science-deniers, and have instead embraced innovation and transformation.”

Dr. Andrew Carr then followed by highlighting what this means in terms of the strategic reset for Australia in dealing with the direct challenges from China and the changing dynamics of the American Alliance. Carr argued that Australia needed to focus on its regional interests rather than following American proclivities over the past three Administrations to pursue conflicts significantly removed from direct defense challenges to Australia itself.

“This is not to suggest an isolationist or inward-looking turn. Far from it. Nor is it about returning to the 1980s Defence of Australia concepts.

“Rather, it is a position which takes seriously the idea that we may be early into a half-century or more of strategic competition. This means knowing what we will fight to protect and how we can do so. And then being able to go forward from a secure continent. That is what a return to fundamentals means.

“To do otherwise, to keep focusing on what we can do at the furthest limits from our core interests, attempting merely to hold firm to the status quo is to risk our own version of a grey zone style crisis.

“A world where we are making commitments to our allies abroad that we can’t be sure future government’s and the Australian public will want to keep.

“Nor does this extended approach make sense in the face of our specific adversary on the field today. A strategy of simply trying to give ‘110%’, year in and year out, by tired and debt-ridden Western nations, finding ourselves always on the defence against a better resourced and fresher People’s Republic of China is not a winning approach.”

He posed a key question: What are the fundamentals of continental security for Australia?

I would add that his question can be placed within the context of a broader question: What is the future of globalization in the context of the return of great power politics?

The China challenge is two-fold – Western societies have clearly benefited from a globalization approach within which the Chinese economy has contributed but at the same time the one-party state is able to project its global agenda and to leverage its economic outreach to get inside the infrastructure and systems of the liberal democracies.

Carr underscored that Australia needed to deal with the new strategic challenge and to do so by rethinking it defense and security strategies.

“Unfortunately, this is a question we will need to think through afresh, rather than hoping that past generations have done the work for us. The Defence of Australia policy, which was in place from roughly 1972 to 1997 took shape in a very different world, politically and technologically. This was an era where our continent was secure – something that is not obviously true today.”

The well-known Australian strategist Brendan Sargeant then contributed his thoughts on the way ahead in this new historical era. Sargeant has had many policy positions in the Australian government and spoke from that experience to facing the new period of history.

His focus was upon how best to take the capabilities Australia has built and are building and how best to marry them to how best to use them in Australian interests

“The development of capability is important, perhaps the most important element of defence policy, but also important is understanding how they capabilities might need to be used in the future.

“How should we shape the force to respond to future crises?

“How we think about that question will in part determine how we want to evolve capabilities, and how powerful and sustainable we will want the force to be.

“Have we thought sufficiently about how we might need to use defence capability in the future, and are we building for that day or days?”

The remainder of the seminar focused on what one might call the eco system for a more sustainable ADF.  A key element of shaping a way ahead clearly is to shape a more sustainable force which can endure through a crisis. This meant taking off the table the capability of the Chinese to disrupt the supply chains into Australia and choking off the sustainability of the ADF. This clearly needs to be dealt with by crafting “buffer” capabilities to sustain the force.

Another key aspect being worked is enhanced local industrial support to ADF forces, as well as new approach to stockpiling parts and skill sets to sustain the force.

There are clear security issues as well. There needs to be enhanced security of Australian civil as well as military infrastructure, in terms of IT, C2 and energy security.

Put in blunt terms, with a focus on direct defense of Australia comes a broader social recognition of the long-term challenges posed by its powerful neighbor in the region as well as finding ways to rethink crisis management tools. An integrated ADF which able to operate in flexible force packages as a key enabler for sovereign options in a crisis is a different trajectory than envisaged in the last White Paper.

But to enable; you need to survive and be sustained. This is why active defense measures are being stood up and rethinking about logistics and industrial support under way.

It is clearly a work in progress.

But such an approach will have significant implications for Australia’s allies and industrial partners as well.  A focus on sustainable direct defense will clearly mean a shift in focus and reorientation of how Australia will work with global partners and industry.  And this has direct consequences for programs such as the British frigate, the French submarine and US produced 21st century air combat assets, such as P-8, Triton, Growler and F-35.

Dr. Carr highlighted how different the way ahead is from the recent past.

“We should find a new language instead of the term self-reliance.

“This term has always been used by Australians to mean an exception to usual practice. Self-Reliance was we did in the worst-case scenario, or did on the margins while normal allied cooperation was the mainstay.

“Instead we should think of this issue as most other countries do. Defending ourselves is our task and our primary responsibility. We will build alliance cooperation on top of this, we will seek to use our geography to support and sustain a regional order that has been very valuable to us. But what we do alone is not the exception, but a fundamental part of a re-invigorated, and resilient approach.

“So let us take this moment to rethink and regroup. The siren calling us back onto the pitch is sure to blast very soon, and the next half is going to be even tougher. But with a better plan, based on the fundamentals, I am confident the game’s momentum.”

A “Plan Jericho” for Australian Energy Security: Leveraging the Hydrogen Energy Opportunity


By Robbin Laird

During my current visit to Australia, I had an opportunity to continue my discussions with Air Vice Marshal (Retired) John Blackburn with regard to the challenges facing Australian energy security.

Increasingly, there is a perception that Australia needs to create an energy reserve or buffer with regard to energy supplies in case of supply chain disruption.  And certainly, it does not make sense to have a serious vulnerability in terms of energy supplies which provides an adversary with an easy option to put pressure on Australia in a crisis.

Blackburn has been at the forefront of the effort to get the Australian government to focus on this challenge.

But in this interview, we assumed the importance of that effort and we discussed a more comprehensive way to provide for a key element for Australian security, namely a reliable and secure energy supply.

Blackburn has argued for what he calls a “fifth generation” approach to energy security, i.e. designing an approach which looks at building an integrated energy system,” rather than the exisiting stove-piped approach where various energy supplies and systems are treated in isolation from one another.  His explanation of this approach was published previously on

He proposes that the integrated design principles underpinning the Plan Jericho approach whereby the RAAF looked to leverage the F-35 and its entry into service for a major reworking of the entire force, be applied to Australia’s energy system. Blackburn believes that the expanded use of Hydrogen, as an energy system integrator, could provide a similar trigger for change in Australia’s Energy systems as the introduction of the F-35 is doing for the ADF.

A key example of the absence of strategy with regard to energy in Australia is seen in the natural gas sector.  According to Blackburn: “When Australia started to extract a lot of gas for exports, only West Australia had a 15% domestic reservation policy.  In other words, 15% of the supply had to be kept for domestic use, the rest could be exported. No other state or territory in Australia did that.”

“So today, gas in West Australia cost one third or even less than gas on the East Coast of Australia. So much is being exported from the East and North of Australia that the Government is now projecting there won’t be enough gas for the domestic supply in the East of Australia in the next few years.   There now is a discussion about building liquid natural gas import terminals on the East Coast so we can buy liquid natural gas (that we just exported) from the global market and import it to Australia for the East Coast gas supply. That’s a real indicator of the absence of systems thinking.

“Even though we are now the largest exporter of gas in the world, because we didn’t have a strategy or a plan, we just let industry export with no controls (apart from West Australia), with the result that now the cost for gas in East Coast  is killing business and impacting our economy negatively. Businesses like aluminum producers, fertilizer producers and others, are really suffering on the East Coast because they don’t have affordable gas.

“This is an example of a common problem in Australia – a lack of systems thinking in the Government. The focus is on exports and export earnings at the cost of domestic security and domestic cost of energy supplies.

Blackburn argues that if you took a broader view, Government needs to consider how the different energy supplies could be woven under a comprehensive strategy which would enable exports but within an approach that was based first upon domestic costs and supply considerations and national security.

“What would we like to have?

“It’s very important for national security purposes to have an integrated energy system design of some sort. Otherwise, it’s just like a 3rd Gen Air Force, you buy all these platforms and you hope sometime in the future they’ll be sort of connected by data links and they’ll be integrated.”

“We learned that it didn’t work that well so with the 5th Gen Air Force, we’re thinking about how do we use parts of that force, in this case, the JSF, as an integration driver which can leverage legacy capabilities and help integrate them into a 21stcentury Air Force.”

We then focused on how hydrogen energy, if leveraged with a fifth-generation integrated design perspective in mind, could trigger fundamental change in the energy security domain.

“Hydrogen could be as significant an export in the future as our liquid natural gas is currently. But we need to look beyond that opportunity to see it as a trigger for change.

“Hydrogen can be part of a significant energy transition.

“For example, using a “Hydrogen system” we can store electricity from wind and solar in the form of hydrogen and you can then use a hydrogen gas turbine and generate electricity when you need it.   Hydrogen also changes the mode of energy. With hydrogen you can make ammonia, which is important for fertilizers, explosives, and a wide range of products.

“You can also make liquid hydrogen for export which is what Japan will be importing under its future Hydrogen Society model.   Japan has a National Policy Statement, in which they indicate that they want to be the first hydrogen society in the world. Japanese companies are looking at how they move away from fossil fuel-based energy in their production. What they’re planning is for hydrogen to actually be the energy source for a lot of their production.

“We can be one of the largest exporters of Hydrogen to Japan; likely at the same scale as our current natural gas exports to Japan.

“In other words, there’s an energy relationship that could complement our security relationship with Japan.

“The opportunity for us is to use the emergence of hydrogen as a significant factor in our energy market to develop an integrated energy strategy and plan for Australia. This could have a positive impact on our economy, on the environment and defense, improving our our national resilience and, in turn, our national security.

“The challenge we will face is that we do not have any examples of coherent national level strategies and plans in the last few decades. We do not have a national security strategy, nor national strategies for energy components such as oil/fuels, gas or electricity systems.  Given that we are the 9thlargest energy producer in the world, the lack of any integrating strategy or plan (apart from “dig it up and export it”) beggars belief.

“We don’t have a culture of doing that. And this is why the current focus in Australia is on developing a national hydrogen strategy with a strong focus on export.

“I think that there needs to be an expansion of the Terms of Reference for our hydrogen strategy to allow it to look beyond just production of hydrogen for export, to the impact on our energy security as a whole.

Hydrogen production and deployment systems could positively impact our electrical power networks, by providing base loads for networks with a high percentage of renewable generation, frequency stability services and electricity production (via hydrogen gas turbines) when required by the network operators to stabilize the electricity system.

“This results in a  more robust distributed energy system which can reinforce electricity system resilience by being able to produce electricity on demand.

“The emergence of hydrogen powered vehicles will also reduce our oil and fuel import dependency which is currently a major energy security risk.  Thus hydrogen needs to be considered in the development of a transport energy strategy (which we do not have.)

“Hydrogen can be injected into exisiting methane gas networks in order to reduce gas imports and to lower emissions thus having a significant impact on our gas energy systems.

Put in other terms, in Blackburn’s view, a hydrogen strategy is not just about hydrogen but it’s about an integrated energy security strategy where Hydrogen acts as both a temporal and mode shifting medium that integrates other “legacy” energy components into a much more resilient and secure system.

“The development of the national Hydrogen strategy can help trigger a change in thinking, to think about integrated design of energy which in turn can significantly improve our national security.”

“Once we’ve done that on the energy sector, you can turn that sort of thinking and apply it to the other parts of national security system.

“If we could trigger an integrated system design and strategy for energy, we could, in turn, significantly improve our national security and ideally highlight the value of actually having a national security strategy!”

IIER-A National Hydrogen Strategy Feedback






UK to Deploy F-35s to Cyprus for the First Time


Cyprus has provided a key operational launch point for the RAF in the Middle East for some time.

Recently, the UK updated its agreement with the Cyprus government for continued operations from Cyprus.

In an article published on April 8, 2019 by Hemanth Kumar and Talal Husseini, the new agreement was described:

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has signed a new defence partnership with Cyprus, under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will enhance defence and security co-operation between the two countries.

The MoU for the new UK defence partnership was signed during a meeting in London between Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides and UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Williamson said: “Cyprus is a valued partner and friend, and through signing this agreement we have reinforced our already close ties across defence for years to come.

“Our bases in Cyprus are a vital asset in our fight against Daesh with Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets that were instrumental in the territorial defeat of the terrorist group in Syria flying out of RAF Akrotiri.”

The MoU will cover shared interests in areas such as training, capability development and crisis planning.

The nations also expect the agreement to provide new opportunities for multilateral security training with regional partners.

The UK values its air force bases in Cyprus as strategic to target ISIS. The Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus allows the UK and its allies to act swiftly in region whenever the need arises.

With that agreement, the F-35s will follow.

According to an article published on the UK MoD website on April 8, 2019, Royal Navy Aviators will soon deploy to Cyprus with the F-35, marking the first overseas deployment fo the new aircraft by the UK.

Britain’s new cutting-edge F-35B aircraft will depart their home station of RAF Marham in Norfolk later this year for Cyprus in their first overseas deployment.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world.

“This deployment marks an important milestone in this game-changing aircraft’s journey to becoming fully operational.”

Owned and operated by the RAF, the Lightning Force is jointly manned by both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. This deployment will allow personnel from both services to gain vital experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment.

The deployment will also train and test all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew that comes with this impressive aircraft.

The Lightning, as the aircraft is known in the UK, is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings. With the ability to operate from land and sea, the F-35 forms a vital part of delivering a ‘carrier strike’ capability to the UK when combined with Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said:

“It is great to see 617 Squadron, the modern day Dambusters, flying the most advanced and dynamic fighter jet in the UK’s history and about to start their first overseas deployment.

“I have no doubt that this short deployment will offer many tests, but likewise I am confident that our highly trained and skilled personnel will rise to the challenge and confirm our ability to deliver truly formidable capability.”

Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC DL Royal Navy, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said:

“This first overseas deployment of these world-beating British F-35B aircraft to RAF Akrotiri, together with their embarkation in HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time in the Autumn of this year, are important milestones to prove their readiness for deployed operations anywhere in the world in defence of our national interests.”

The UK currently owns 17 F-35B aircraft with the reformed 617 Sqn having arrived back in the UK last year, with RAF Voyager aircraft providing air-to-air refuelling on their trans-Atlantic journey. More jets are due in Britain over the coming years, and there is an overall plan to procure 138 aircraft over the life of the Programme.

The F-35 is the world’s largest defence programme at over $1.3 trillion, with UK industry providing 15% by value of every one of over 3,000 jets set for the global order book.

That makes the economic impact greater than if we were building 100% of all 138 aircraft which we intend to buy.

The programme has already generated $12.9 billion worth of orders and at peak production will support thousands of British manufacturing and engineering jobs.

The featured photo: A new UK defense partnership has been reached with Cyprus to enhance defense and security cooperation, including the first F-35 deployment this year. Credit: Praca Wlasna.


UK Joint Expeditionary Force Deploys to Baltic Sea


In an article published April 3, 2019, the UK MoD announced the deployment of a JEF to the Baltic Sea.

Nearly 2,000 UK Armed Forces personnel will deploy to the Baltic Sea for a series of multinational exercises in support of European security.

Sailors and marines from all nations of the UK-led high-readiness Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) will take part in the deployment, due to take place in May, which will underline the importance of protecting Europe at a time of increased threat.

This week, Defence Ministers and representatives from JEF countries will come together at the Ministry of Defence to discuss the deployment and test the mechanisms for mobilising the JEF, laying the foundation for the start of Baltic Protector.

A total of 3,000 military personnel from all JEF nations will be involved in the Baltic Protector deployment, which draws in around 20 naval vessels, including a number of Royal Navy ships. They will test themselves with maritime tactical exercises, amphibious drills, amphibious raiding practice, shore landings and naval manoeuvres. This is the first ever JEF maritime deployment of this scale, and demonstrates its ability to provide reassurance in the region.

The joint force, now fully operational, is spearheaded by the UK and includes eight other likeminded nations – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The JEF builds on many years of experience between the UK and these countries.

At full strength, the joint force has the capability to mobilise over 10,000 personnel in support of a variety of missions to deliver rapid and far-reaching effect. And while Baltic Protector is maritime-focused, personnel from the British Army and Royal Air Force will also take part.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“As Britain prepares to leave the EU, our unwavering commitment to European security and stability is more important than ever.

“Deploying our world class sailors and marines to the Baltic Sea, alongside our international allies, firmly underlines Britain’s leading role in Europe.”

Baltic Protector, the first deployment of the JEF Maritime Task Group, will be made up of three major exercises and is aimed at integrating UK and partner nations to test their ability to operate together.

JEF personnel and ships will also work alongside NATO allies during the deployment, further underlining the versatility of the joint force, and the commitment to supporting European security.

Commodore James Parkin, Commander of the Task Group, said:

“It is a huge privilege to command the Baltic Protector deployment, and I am greatly looking forward to working with our close friends and partners from the other eight Joint Expeditionary Force partner nations.

“Together, this UK-led Maritime Task Group will conduct a series of demanding amphibious exercises and maritime security patrols across the Baltic Sea that will serve to improve the way we operate together and our readiness to respond to crisis.”

The JEF, which was established at the 2014 NATO Summit and launched a year later, became fully operational with the signing of a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding in June 2018.

As an adaptable high-readiness force that can be stood up anywhere, at any time and in any environment, the JEF can cover a range of tasks, including combat operations, deterrence, or humanitarian support. The JEF has the ability to operate independently or in support of multinational organisations, including NATO, UN, EU and Northern Group.

The joint force is a clear example of collective strength between partner nations, and this joint working has been seen previously. This has included during the Ebola outbreak – as part of the response, the UK, the Netherlands and Norway combined resources on land, at sea and in the air. This demonstrates the kind of integrated mission the JEF could be mobilised to support.

The photo shows HMS Albion which is taking part in the exercise. Crown Copyright.