WASHINGTON: The F-35 Joint Strike fighter will drive deeper and more useful military connections between Australia, the United States and regional partners such as Japan and Malaysia, the head of Australia’s air force said today.
“This aircraft has redefined joint” for Australia, Air Marshal Leo Davies said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this morning, accelerating policy and doctrine conversations between Australia’s services. “JSF also means we are more than friends and allies. We are now technology partners whose capability brings us shared futures.”
On a regional level, the F-35 provides “interoperability not only of Australian and US forces, but other regional and allied JSF operators.” Japan and South Korea are buying F-35As and Singapore is widely expected to buy F-35Bs.
Combine that with his country’s decisions to buy the P-8 Poseidon, the EA-18G Growler and the MQ-4C Triton (the maritime version of Global Hawk) and the two countries now boast what Davies called “institutional interoperability.” Parts and equipment can be shared and many pilots have trained together.
“Ultimately, whether through friendship or institutional arrangement, our combined joint capability means we can prosecute our shared interest together more decisively and, where necessary, we possess the means to do so more forcefully,” the air marshal said. Those closer ties he characterized as “steel threads that bridge oceans.”
Australia won’t back away from regional powers who may not possess the most advanced military hardware. For example, Australia’s P-8 Poseidons, possessed of highly classified systems and data, “will continue to operate from Malaysia,” he said. They will fly counter-piracy and security missions as have their predecessors, the AP-3C, for 30 years.
One of the more intriguing parts of Davies’ speech was what he didn’t say: China. It was everywhere in his speech, yet he didn’t call the country by its name once. He stressed the importance of the liberal “rules-based global order,” often used to describe the international regime of which Britain and America have been the mainstays. He stressed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight. He mentioned India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan as critical friends in the region with whom Australia would operate.
“It is our unique relationships with regional players, relationships which the US may not enjoy, that allows us to play a special role here. We have, if you will, the insight of a permanent resident,” Davies said.