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Military analyst discusses decision to purchase long-range Stealth cruise missiles.

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Thursday 26 August 2004

Military analyst discusses decision to purchase long-range stealth cruise missiles


TONY EASTLEY: The Australian Defence Force plans to add sting to its firepower by equipping the air force with American-made stealth cruise missiles.  


This morning Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill will announce the Government plans to purchase one of three cruise missile options. Each missile will cost the nation more than half a million dollars. 


But the move, approved this week by Federal Cabinet's National Security Committee, is also likely to unsettle Australia's regional neighbours, given that the weapon has a maximum range of around 400 kilometres. 


Nick Grimm has been speaking to Aldo Borgu from Australian Strategic Policy Institute, about the implications of the deal. 


NICK GRIMM: Aldo Borgu, what's the rationale behind purchasing the cruise missile? 


ALDO BORGU: Well, essentially the Government is retiring the F1-11 aircraft early, they're going to be going out in 2010, and they have announced that in order for that to happen, they're going to have to upgrade our FA18s with a new missile to give it similar capabilities to the F1-11. 


NICK GRIMM: And what's the advantage of the cruise missile? 


ALDO BORGU: Well certainly its range, you're talking about, you know, missiles that can have anywhere around about four, five hundred kilometre range. The F18 does have, you know, a much more limited operating range than the F1-11, and so having this missile will basically be able… give it the opportunity to reach targets, not quite to the same extent as the F1-11, but at least getting close to that point. 


NICK GRIMM: Okay, so by purchasing a plane with a shorter range than the original F1-11, you need a missile with a greater range therefore in order to maintain the same sort of capability? 


ALDO BORGU: Very much so. And not only that, you need the missile, but you also need air-to-air refuelling for the actual aircraft as well, and the Government did announce that it was getting new refuelling tanker aircraft some months ago, so it's a complete package. 


It certainly won't be able to do the same things as the F1-11 does, but it will certainly come close. 


NICK GRIMM: How is this likely to go down amongst our regional neighbours? 


ALDO BORGU: Well, a lot will depend on how the Government's explaining it to them, because, you know, diplomacy is a very large factor here. The issue is that we're not really introducing a new capability as a whole, because as I said, this is going to be replacing the F1-11 and these, you know, the F1-11s do have a range that's unrivalled throughout the world.  


So, you know, there is that aspect, but certainly it will take some negotiations, because not least that Australia doesn't want to be seen to be introducing a new capability into the region, and that's unfortunately how the perception could come about. 


TONY EASTLEY: Aldo Borgu from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute speaking to Nick Grimm.