Friday 14 May 2021 | 07:23 | SYDNEY
Friday 14 May 2021 | 07:23 | SYDNEY

Do we need to harden our military airfields?


Sam Roggeveen


7 February 2008 10:17

'Threat', goes the common formulation, 'is the sum of capability and intent'. Defence strategists will often add that since it is impossible to really know a potential adversary's intentions (and these could change in an instant anyway), we need to plan against their capabilities. Yet as we've discussed on this blog before, that's not how things actually work: defence policy-makers have finite resources, so they have to assume they know the long-term intent of certain countries. For instance, we take for granted that US intentions toward us will remain friendly, which frees us from having to defend against the possibility of a US invasion. I had thought similar logic could apply to the possibility of a Chinese or Indian military strike against our homeland, but Air Power Australia's Carlo Kopp evidently disagrees:

'The advent of PGM (precision-guided munition) technology in the region has rendered extant RAAF air base hardening measures ineffective, opening up the strategic option of a pre-emptive attack, especially using submarine or air launched cruise missiles, against forward deployed RAAF assets at northern bases...It follows that Australia should invest in a robust program to harden all RAAF basing in the north and apply like hardening measures in the development of the Cocos Islands and Christmas Island.'

In our region, only China has air- or sub-launched cruise missiles, and only India (and perhaps Pakistan) isĀ  planning to get them. So in what circustances does Kopp think those cuntries would launch such a pre-emptiveĀ attack against us? Given the relatively modest cost of adding concrete to our runways and aircraft shelters, maybe it's worth it, but is it really urgent?