Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:04 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:04 | SYDNEY

Airfield plus concrete does not equal protection


Mark O'Neill

11 February 2008 10:23

The recent suggestion by Airpower Australia’s Carlo Kopp that Australia needs to harden its Northern airbases is truly risible, not least because of the threat assessment issue that Sam Roggeveen described. And while Sam’s observation that concrete is relatively cheap is accurate, it is also largely irrelevant to the issue of protection of infrastructure against modern aerial attack.

I suspect that amongst its other ‘interests’, Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party had a monopoly in concrete production. The former Iraqi regime spent a lot of time and money using literally millions of tonnes of reinforced concrete to protect infrastructure. And the US shattered most of it. Twice. Using the very weapons that Kopp is fearful of in our region. Drive past any former ‘protected’ site in Iraq and you will see a graphic representation of the futility of using reinforced concrete to protect most defence infrastructure against modern aerially delivered weapons employed by a technically competent foe.

The best way to stay protected is to not be seen. If you cannot be seen, you cannot be targeted. This, of course, might be a bit of a problem for the large, static airbases in Northern Australia that Kopp is enthusiastic about. Of course, if you had an airbase that could move around this problem diminishes, but that's called an aircraft carrier….

NB. Mark O'Neill is the outgoing Army Fellow at the Lowy Institute. His replacement, Rodger Shanahan, will be blogging for us soon.

Photo by Flickr user MASSIVE DEFEAT, used under a Creative Commons licence.