Australia isn’t ‘Waiting for Wartime’

The assumption that in times of war, munition production will naturally surge and rise to the occasion may be a worrying myth.

Somewhat understandably, the lack of any need during peacetime, the rise of simulation training, and the natural discouragement when balancing the budget books means that peacetime manufacturing of ammunition is not in line with what would be needed for wartime usage. However, to quote former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “[y]ou go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

In 2021, a simulated war game involving the US, the UK and French Forces, found that the UK forces had exhausted national stockpiles of critical ammunition after just eight days. Following the simulation, now retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges told British MPs: ‘ammunition expenditures go off the charts when you get into a serious, high end, force on force conflict’. To take an even more contemporaneous example from just last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that Russia’s war with Ukraine has turned into a ‘battle of ammunition’. Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines have been told to ration munitions. Indeed, during its counteroffensive, Ukraine went from firing between 6,000 to 8,000 shells per day to just 2,000. Notably, this figure is in stark contrast to the 60,000 shells that Russia was firing at the peak of its barrages. To quote a Ukrainian artillery brigade officer: ‘there is really not enough ammunition’.

The Australian Government and Department of Defence made it clear that they intend to act on these important learnings; and the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise (GWEO) have been tasked with providing Australia’s answer to this challenge. GWEO is intended to be the ecosystem that supports Defence’s inventory of its namesake (i.e. guided weapons and explosive ordnance).

On Wednesday, inaugural Chief of GWEO, Air Marshal Leon Phillips OAM, told the ADM Congress in Canberra that his goal was to produce sufficient missiles to meet ADF requirements; and for Australia to ‘step up’ and strengthen the collective volume of weapons that western nations and allies have at their disposal. In this regard, in a worst-case scenario situation, Australian missiles could still be sufficient in the region, even if cut off from other supply lines in the Pacific.

The Government has invested $4.1 billion to enable Defence to acquire more long-range strike systems and manufacture longer-range munitions in Australia.

24 February 2024 | Authored by Connor Andreatidis, Consultant, Precision Public Affairs

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