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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Australia to buy 8 American jets

PM with US Navy Commander Bill Pennington exit US Navy P8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft at RAAF Fairbairn, Canberra

The Abbott government is about to make Australia's biggest military purchase ever - 8 American-made Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.  The new fleet, costing around $4 billion, will help patrol over 2.5 million square kilometres of our oceans.

The Poseidon is equipped with torpedoes and harpoon missiles, able to destroy submarines and warships and are currently part of the US Navy.  They will eventually operate with several unmanned Triton long-range patrol aircraft, also on Abbott's future shopping list.  The first aircraft will be delivered in 2017, with the fleet fully operational by 2021 and will be based at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia.

The government could possibly buy another four aircraft, depending on the outcome of the Defence White Paper review. Labor gave official approval for the purchase back in 2007.

Last month for the first time, China sent several warships, escorted by a submarine, through the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian island of Java and Sumatra.  The ships travelled along the southern edge of Java, close to Christmas Island and then through the Lombok Strait between Lombok and Bali.

Experts say it was a deliberate and provocative move by the Chinese to send a clear message that they now consider the Indian Ocean a priority, and a warning of their intention to protect its interests in the region, if pushed.

 Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop with the Obamas

But Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop isn't worried and says the Chinese Navy is growing commensurate with the increasing size and strength of its economy and their place in the region. The fact that the Chinese navy is conducting exercises in international waters isn't a matter she would raise with her counterpart, she says, because we do it too.

"The United States has long been the single greatest power in the Pacific, in Asia, in fact globally.  But we recognise that there are other countries emerging as stronger economies, other countries are building up their militaries.  Japan is also redefining its defence stance.  So we are in a very different world, it's a changing landscape, and our foreign policy must be flexible enough and nimble enough to recognise that changing landscape" she said.