Australia boosts domestic defence production, reduces reliance on imports

By Our Reporter

Australia’s push to bolster its domestic defence manufacturing is bearing fruit, with notable reductions in its imports. In recent years, the country has made strides in producing a majority of its defence platforms in-house. This includes a spectrum of military vehicles, artillery systems, and naval equipment. According to a report by GlobalData, an esteemed data and analytics firm, the Australian government is keen on securing access to Western technologies to further this self-reliant initiative.

GlobalData’s new “Defence Platform Import/Export Dashboard” sheds light on the significant role the US plays in Australia’s defence imports. The data indicates that between 2016 and 2022, the US accounted for a whopping 71.7% of the total import value. Italy comes next in the list of exporters to Australia. The upcoming decade, from 2023 to 2033, is expected to see the US export an estimated $33.8 billion in defence platforms to Australia. This will comprise various equipment, including Virginia-class submarines, MQ-4C Triton UAVs, UH-60M & MH-60R helicopters, and C-130J aircraft.

Sai Kiran, an Aerospace and Defence Analyst at GlobalData, shares insights on this partnership. He points out that Australia’s strategic location makes it a pivotal ally for the US, particularly in counteracting China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific zone. The US has been keen on amplifying the presence of its defence companies in Australia. Such a move ensures not only a smoother flow of weapon production but also supports Australia’s overarching goal of defence self-reliance. With this collaboration, Australia gains better access to Western technology. Furthermore, the risks associated with logistical challenges during emergencies, which are inherent with imports, are considerably reduced.

Australia’s Military Platforms Imports, By Country

Nevertheless, there remain certain defence platforms where Australia relies on imports. This includes specific categories like military fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft, UAVs, and submarines. The sources of these imports are diverse, spanning from the US to European nations like Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France, and Germany.

Kiran’s analysis wraps up with a nod to the contributions of defence firms from other NATO nations. With the support of the Australian government, many of these companies have established their presence in Australia. A case in point is the recent injection of AUD220 million ($140 million) by the Australian government into two munition factories. These facilities, under the management of Thales Australia—an offshoot of the French defence giant, Thales Group—are a testament to Australia’s evolving defence priorities.

As Australia continues to navigate the complex landscape of defence manufacturing, collaborations with global partners, coupled with domestic initiatives, will be instrumental in ensuring its security and strategic objectives are met.

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