Biggest trading partner or biggest threat? The Australian government recently signed an agreement with the United Kingdom’s largest maker of military defence weaponry, BAE Systems, to build nine new anti-submarine warships.
The defence contract is worth a reported $26 Billion and will provide Australia’s Royal Navy with “Hunter Class” warships. Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calls these frigates, “one of the most advanced anti-submarine warships in the world.”
BAE refers to these warships as the “Type 26” and claims it represents the most modern design for anti-submarine warfare. To validate its claims, BAE said these are the same type of vessels used by the British Royal Navy.
According to the agreement, the ships will be built in Australia. The targeted facility will be located at the Osborne Naval Shipyard which is based in South Australia. The government believes the arrangement will help shore up the country’s weakening manufacturing sector.
ASC Shipbuilding, which is owned by the Australian government, will become a subsidiary of BAE throughout the term of the contract. It is estimated that the Type- 26 warships will be officially launched in the latter part of the 2020s.
The agreement with BAE appears to confirm increasing tensions between Australia and China, which is its biggest trading partner. Turnbull also disclosed that the government will purchase unmanned spy drones from the United States.
The spy drones of the MQ-4C type will be remotely piloted and has the ability to fly higher and cover greater distances than its manned aircraft.
Reports have it that the Australian government plans to use the drones to survey developments in the South China Sea.
Australia has become more concerned about China’s growing influence in the South China Sea. Intelligence reports show that China has constructed a mega-wharf located in Vanuatu. The wharf can supposedly house multiple warships that can target the east coast of Australia.
The Australian Senate recently passed laws that require lobbyists from foreign governments to enter their identities in a public register.
China has increasingly adopted a belligerent position on its claims on disputed islands in the South China Sea. Satellite imaging has revealed photos that show China has begun the militarization of structures set up in islands located in the Western Philippine Sea.
In a landmark 2016 decision, the United Nations awarded territorial rights over the islands to the Philippines. However, China disregarded the ruling and seemingly with the assistance of new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte continued to build structures including an airstrip on the islands.