A former army chief has blasted the Albanian government’s approach to defence, warning the Australian military is now less capable and less prepared to deal with potential threats than when Labor came to power.
- Retired army chief says government’s military decisions are ‘tearing out the heart of defence’
- General Peter Leahy’s comments come as international maritime conference opens in Sydney
- China and Russia excluded from the Indo-Pacific Maritime Powers Conference again
Retired Lt. Gen. Peter Leahy says the response to the strategic defense review has paralyzed the military, while a review of the naval surface fleet is delaying other crucial decisions.
“I’m really concerned that, in the face of this much more complex geostrategic position, we are actually seeing the Australian Defense Force becoming less capable and less able to deal with options that may be required in the future,” he said. he told the ABC.
General Leahy, who served as army chief until 2008, said the local defense industry was collapsing as defense budgets were cut in the short term in favor of long-term funding. term of nuclear submarines within the framework of AUKUS.
“The imposed cuts – and these are cuts in the allocated budget – are tearing the heart out of defence,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s much of a future for the defense industry here in Australia, so we need to pick up our game. I don’t think we can be taken seriously in the corridors of Washington.”
When publishing its response to the Strategic Defense Review in April, the Albanian government announced a radical overhaul of the army by significantly reducing the number of armored vehicles and instead focusing on coastal maneuvers and strike capability long range.
General Leahy, who is now a professor at the University of Canberra, says he is worried about the future of the military because it will be less capable and less ready to provide governments with a range of military options.
“The army will be smaller, it will be less capable, it will be less protected, and by that I mean we need tanks and armored vehicles, because the days of tin and canvas on the field “The battle is over,” he said.
“And we know from history and recent experience that tanks save lives.”
In an opinion piece published Tuesday, he also argues that as an “island nation straddling two immense oceans and contested seas to the north, we absolutely need highly capable naval and air capabilities.”
“Their goal should be to operate as a small part of a combined force, supporting friends and allies far from our shores,” he wrote.
“By doing this, they strengthen our defense in and around the natural defensive barrier provided by the archipelago and island chain to the north and east.”
Doubts over shipbuilding overshadow maritime conference
Uncertainty over Australia’s multibillion-dollar shipbuilding projects threatens to overshadow an international maritime conference that opens in Sydney on Tuesday.
This year, naval representatives from more than 40 countries are participating in the Indo-Pacific Seapower Conference, alongside more than 800 defense companies.
Australia’s navy chief confirmed that Chinese and Russian military delegations had once again been excluded from the event, as they were last year.
“We don’t have a defense relationship with either China or Russia,” Vice Admiral Mark Hammond told the ABC.
Earlier this year, the Albanian government received the findings of a study of the Royal Australian Navy’s surface fleet, which examined the viability of ongoing projects such as the $45 billion program to build frigates Hunter class.
An official government response to the study, led by retired US Vice-Admiral William H Hilarides, will not be released until early 2024, but Vice-Admiral Hammond insists many Australian naval works are underway despite the length of the process.
“I have my hands full with ongoing operations and fleet optimization – we already have a lot of activity underway in this regard – and like you, I look forward to seeing what the government determines regarding review of surface combatants,” he said. .
General Leahy said he questioned why a retired US admiral needed to review Australia’s navy, but warned any future construction of warships and submarines here would be “extremely expensive”.