Consistent with the strategic priorities in the Defence White Paper, a significant capital acquisition program is being pursued to increase the capability of Australia’s armed forces.
Major capital investment projects include the purchase of airborne early warning and control aircraft and the upgrading of the Collins class submarines to a higher level of capability. Improved air-to-air refueling capabilities are also considered vital. Estimated expenditure on new projects is $509m in 2001-02, $829m in 2002-03 and $1,181m in 2003-04.
These acquisitions will be crucial in meeting several future challenges. Firstly, Defence needs to recognise growing regional defence capabilities. Examples include increasing air-combat capabilities and the proliferation of more capable anti-ship missiles. Secondly, Defence needs to meet the challenge of block obsolescence, as several key platforms (including patrol boats, support ships, guided missile frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, and F/A-18 and F-111 aircraft) will need to be replaced over the coming twenty years. Defence has already begun planning to meet these challenges. Extensive planning is required as the maintenance and management of defence capabilities is a long-term process. The replacement of some platforms may take up to 10 years, with the new platform having a life of over 30 years. Quantum jumps in technology can accelerate obsolescence, making the development and maintenance of defence capabilities a very complex and demanding process.