This defence-concepts page presents an idealised future weapons selection for the Australian Defence Force aimed at the years 2024 to 2030. Also included on the sidebar column are entries dealing with the Royal Navy, the New Zealand Air Force & Navy, and a future US Navy Air Wing among other items. 

The overall content is admittedly inspired by lessons learnt from the Falklands War and is highly skewed towards power projection. As a consequence, this page revolves around Air Force and Navy force composition rather than Army. However, this site does offer a more astute assessment of future ADF requirements, in terms of necessary materiel and structure, in this 2015 Defence White Paper submission which includes a significant strengthening of Australian land forces.

It should be recognised that not all elements proposed here may be achievable, although most of what is outlined mirrors planning already undertaken. Please note: the highest priority ADF capabilities to be considered, some of which are not covered on this 'big ticket items' page, are:

#1 Intelligence monitoring capabilities; Elint/Sigint, satellite (via the US), strategic UAVs + human (not covered here).

#2 Long range Radar/IR technology; includes airborne, seaborne and ground based systems (not covered here in detail).

#3 Air Supremacy via Long Range Multi-Role Fighters (also used for strike mission requirements).

#4 Strategic (RAAF) and Tactical (Army) UAV Squadrons (three squadrons in total).

#5 Expanded Submarine force, with significant Tomahawk cruise missile strike/anti-ship capability.

#6 Expanded Army and Reserve Forces (covered briefly in the Editorial and Army sections).

*See the side column for a short Editorial Comment on the overall role of the Future ADF. Plus click here to see the present extent of the site, if not already viewing it. This text only represents an introduction to the Future ADF Page. This site is updated from time to time - look out for modifications and/or new material.

AIR FORCE

The Air Force must be centred around an Air Superiority platform in light of the equipment being fielded in the region. An advanced long range multi-role fighter is the best choice given our existing ground attack and strike requirements. With projected advances in Radar and IR detection Australia should not accept intrinsically inferior flying platforms like the F-35 that relies heavily on its present day stealth and sensor advantage. Hypothetical future aircraft, like a 'FJ-23', a cross between an F-23 and J-20, would be the most satisfactory solution. Significant numbers of these aircraft must be acquired.

The 'FJ-23' Air Superiority Multi-Role Aircraft:

[The above picture is actually concept art for a Chinese J-XX aircraft but this picture fortuitously includes the desired features of a FJ-23, with canards and trailing vertical stabilisers that allow control of the aircraft at high angles of attack. Notice that this aircraft has some separation between its engines that allows for more fuel, weapons and rear facing sensors.]

The secondary requirement, in terms of front line capability would be the acquisition of a long range medium bomber that can fulfill the role of the retired F-111s. Ideally an enlarged version of the FB-23 concept would be the most preferred option.

The FB-23 Medium Bomber:

[This aircraft should also be designed with significant space between the engines to allow for fuel, weapons and sensors. If such medium bombers are unavailable then greater numbers of long range multi-role "FJ-23" type fighters, or their equivalent, will need to be ordered.]

UAV Squadrons:

A 2024-2030 Air Force will need at least 2 Squadrons of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). One will consist of a Strike Squadron that will field Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (X-47Bs or better) while the other Strategic Surveillance Squadron and will comprise of Global Hawks and ultra long duration Airship UAV platforms:

[1 Squadron of UCAVs. In this case X-47B concept art.]

              [1 Squadron of surveillance UAVs - in this case we see an ultra-long endurance Airship/AEW platform.]


KEY AIR FORCE COMPONENTS:

The core composition of the Air Force is summarised as follows:

(100) 'FJ-23' Air Superiority Multi-Role Aircraft > or a similar platform such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA, F-15SE Silent Eagle or Lockheed F-22s. Alternatively a lower cost aircraft like the Saab Gripen NG could be attained in much larger numbers.

(32) FB-23 Medium Bombers or an equivalent amount of 'FJ-23s' that include at least 8 E/FB-23 electronic warfare platforms operating in a role similar to the EF-111 Raven.

(1) Squadron of UCAVs - for strategic strike and other high threat missions.

(1) Squadron of UAV/AEW platforms - for strategic recon and maritime patrol consisting of Global Hawk and ultra long endurance Airship UAVs.

(6) AWACs aircraft - currently Wedgetail 737s in service.

(7) KC-30A refueling tankers - in service.

(5) A400M Atlas dual use airlifter/tankers (see ADF Air Transport).

(10+) P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol aircraft (upgraded to include a MAD detector):


The last key component, but certainly not least, is the JORN over-the-horizon long range radar system:



Training and 'COIN' Aircraft:

Since the Air Force should look to field multi-purpose platforms wherever possible, training aircraft must be usable in the Counter Insurgency (COIN) role, being able to employ air-to-ground missiles, JDAM or LGBs, whilst also having useful air-to-air capabilities. All training aircraft must double as COIN systems to improve the ability of smaller Australian Army units and special forces patrols to defeat larger conventional forces.

(55) Hawk 127 lead in jet trainers increased from 33 presently fielded:


These aircraft can have inflight refuelling probes attached and should also be able to carry anti-ship missiles in the future. The platforms should be fitted with a (future) front and rear facing air intercept AESA radar pod to allow one or more aircraft in a formation to provide air defence - especially against radar equipped and missile armed helicopters. These jets should additionally be able to field the AN/ASQ-236 Radar Pod (for all weather recon mapping) in addition to their standard FLIR (that notably includes laser designation) capability.

(65) Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucanos:


These aircraft are to replace the current PC9 trainers and should be able to carry FLIR pods or the radar pods mentioned for the Hawk 127s - especially the proposed AESA air intercept system for anti-helicopter operations.

(5) MiG-35 Fulcrum Fs:


These super-manoeuvrable aircraft are to be used in air combat training exercises and must be updated with the best available systems including thrust vectoring engines.


ADF Air Transport Capability can be reviewed here.

NAVY

The Naval equipment outlined here focuses on general war fighting capability with a focus on winning territorial disputes similar to the scenario faced by the UK in the Falklands War. In such environments ALL capital ships, excepting submarines, must be equipped with advanced AEGIS-type radar, IR systems, strong CIWS, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, UAVs*/USVs, plus ASW capabilities with bow sonar and torpedoes as standard. Submarines are the primary sea control weapon of the ADF during a time of war.

*Note: Consideration should be made towards developing a long endurance ship-deployable UAV/AEW airship – for use off the LHD ships - to provide extended air and/or surface surveillance on close approach towards potentially threatening areas.

Hobart Class Destroyers (5)


The acquisition of a fourth and fifth vessel will come after 2019 when the first three vessels have replaced the Adelaide Class Frigates. If procuring additional Hobart Class ships prove problematic, then greater numbers of replacement vessels for the ANZAC Class frigates will be in order. The additional vessels are to provide a limited strike capability via the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile so that bombardment of distant airfield, air-defence, plus command and control targets is possible. These ships must also be upgraded with either the Advanced Gun System or Otobreda 127/64 Gun that are under development, plus have towed sonar systems. Additional CIWS or RAM systems will be included to improve survival against missile attacks. SAMPSON type radar could be incorporated in the future to aid the anti-missile defences against low flying targets at range. In addition to an SH-60R helo these ships will also carry two MQ-8B Fire Scout drones.


Type 26 Frigates (12+)


These frigates are to replace the ANZAC Class ships from 2022. They will be optimised for anti-submarine warfare and air defense. In the absence of additional Hobart Class ships, two or three more vessels, bringing the total above twelve, should be fitted with Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles for strike operations. All of these platforms must come equipped with bow and towed sonar as part of their standard configuration. The main gun will be the Otobreda 127/64 system. The radar systems on these vessels will be optimised to detect and shoot down low flying missiles at range, as on Daring Class Destroyers, with two CIWS units as the final layer of defence. The numbers of these frigates are increased from the Anzac Class ships to provide an adequate defence for the amphibious landing ships. Like the Hobart Class ships these frigates will also operate two MQ-8B Fire Scout drones.


HDW Type 216 Submarines (12)


These submarines are intended for many missions, with a focus on offensive operations. They will act as the key strategic strike platform (via Tomahawk LAMs), as an anti-submarine platform, as an anti-ship platform, plus conduct surveillance and special operations deployments. These boats must also include a towed sonar array, carry expendable UAVs, and later field a tube-launched anti-aircraft system for downing ASW aircraft. The submarine fleet numbers should be expanded if possible. *Note: The verticle launch tubes may be deleted from the final design as Harpoon and Tomahawk (TTL) missiles can be fired through the torpedo tubes. The favoured alternative submarine to the HDW216 is the SMX Ocean-Class currently under development.


Gowind Class Offshore Patrol Boats (16)


These ships, upgraded to be effective war fighting vessels, are intended to replace the Armidale Class Patrol boats. In addition to their 76mm deck gun they will also be fitted to carry anti-ship missiles, a RAM system and some type of lightweight sonar/torpedo system. The ship will be modified to extend the flight deck over the RHIB dock allowing the aircraft hangar situated under the bridge to be moved further aft. This ship can facilitate, but is not equipped with, AS565 MB Panther helos. Usually they will carry 2-3 Camcopters (or even Fire Scout UAVs). In times of conflict these Patrol Boats will employ helicopters or armed UAVs to give them an advantage over other surface combatants.


Canberra Class LHDs (2)


The Canberra Class LHDs primary role is as a transport landing ship, equipped with either LCM-1E or L-Cat landing craft, with secondary ASW and anti-ship capability provided via AW101 or SH-60R helos. Their standard transport helicopter must be the three engined AW101. When operating in hostile environments it is essential these ships be fitted with CIWS to protect against missile attacks plus have anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile capability via VLS or RAM. Both ships must also be capable of acting as an auxiliary aircraft carrier fielding AV-8B fighter-bombers, for anti-ship strike and ground attack operations where the threat of air attack is low, with early warning (AEW) helos or ship deployable UAV airship AEW platforms.

Aircraft per LHD:

(4) Airship UAV/AEW platforms. These aircraft will use helicopter mounted AEW systems and have multi-day endurance. Alternatively the 24 hour endurance MQ-8C drone could be used in a similar capacity.


(4) AW101s for troop transport (replacing the present NH90s), plus an extra four (4) for ASW if no SH-60Rs are carried, and a further (4) AEW types if UAVs are unavailable.



(4+) SH-60Rs [or AW101s] optimised for surface attack and ASW.

(2) AS565 MB Panther multi-mission helos also used for fixed wing [AV-8B] pilot recovery.

(4) Tiger ARHs, intermittently carried on board as close air support platforms.

(5)  AV-8Bs, intermittently carried on board, for use in the ground attack, maritime strike and limited air defence roles. A total of 14 aircraft will be operated by the RAAF with 5 to 6 aboard during training cruises. F-35Bs, if they ever become operationally viable, are unable to operate on the LHDs.



Endurance Class LDS (2)


Two vessels of this class are intended as replacements for HMAS Tobruk. The weapons systems on these ships are to be upgraded with improved radar and multiple RAM or CIWS to protect against missile attacks.


Spearhead Class JHSVs (4)


The Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs) are intended for rapid 'in theatre' mobility. These ships must include standard anti-air/anti-missile RAM systems.


Unmanned Surface Vessels

Two Classes of USVs will be required for surveillance, mine detection, special operations and fleet defence:

# Ship-Deployable Inshore USVs - are intended for reconnaissance in littoral waters. They will have a multi-day loitering capability being able to launch small recon UAVs (two per boat) for closer inspection of inland targets. The boats should be equipped with a FLIR system, have sonar (mine detection), and be radar equipped - plus capable of firing both Hellfire (surface attack) and Stinger (anti-aircraft) missiles. These 'lightweight' drones come in two types - a larger 7 ton launch, the Fleet Class USV or similar, for use off capital ships, and a smaller RHIB version for use on Corvettes and Offshore Patrol Vessels.


# Blue Water USVs (7) - these larger 300+ ton ships are intended for picket line Air Defence and Anti-Submarine warfare; primarily to protect the Canberra Class LHDs. Featuring a VLS they could be modified to conduct surface warfare also in the (amphibious) fleet defence role. And, being unmanned, they can be built cheaply to commercial standards. These drones will have a two month long endurance, needing only to refuel to remain active. They will also be equipped with anti-missile systems, either RAM or CIWS or both.    




KEY NAVY COMPONENTS:

(5) Hobart Class Destroyers - displacing 6,000+ tons.

(12) Type 26 Frigates - displacing 5,400 tons.

(12+) HDW Type 216 Submarines - displacing 4000+ tons.

(16) Gowind Class Offshore Patrol Vessels - displacing 1450 tons.

(2) Canberra Class LHDs - displacing 27,000 tons.

(1) HMAS Choules LDS - 16,000 ton strategic sealift vessel.

(2) HMAS Tobruk replacements (2 Endurance Class LDS types) - displacing 8000+ tons.

(4) Spearhead Class high speed transport catamarans - displacing 2362 tons.

(6) Future Heavy Landing Craft replacing Balikpapan Class - displacing 400+ tons.

(7) Future USV Air Warfare and ASW 'picket line' drones - displacing 300+ tons.

(2) Future Fleet Replenishment vessels with CH-47 operable heli deck - displacing 25,000+ tons.

(4) Future Mine Sweepers - displacing 1500 tons.

(2) Future Survey vessels - displacing 2000 tons.

(-) Requisition of civilian transport ships - ferries, container ships - during emergency situations.


The Aircraft Carrier Option (1):

The deployment of a CATOBAR aircraft carrier can provide a strategic deterrent against regional shore based airborne threats, surface vessels and allows for high aircraft sortie rates against far off land targets. A moving airfield is a huge advantage. Such a platform can provide strong support to all manner of expeditionary operations.

The ship should displace 35,000 tons and will employ an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Onboard weapons must include CIWS, anti-air and anti-ship VLS missiles plus (defensive) torpedo/sonar/decoy systems for increased ASW capability in high threat environments. Regular training operations will include ASW exercises involving Australian submarines.

The secondary function of this ship is as a Landing Platform Helicopter vessel with the section aft of the superstructure to include bays, one on each side, that can be utilised for landing craft - as seen amidships on HMS Ocean. Starboard and stern cargo doors will also be a feature to allow an additional roll-on roll-off cargo capability (see side column for details).

Aircraft Carried (CATOBAR):

(14) FJ-23 or F/A-XX Multi-Role Fighters -- with 8 shore based.


(2) EA-6B Prowlers or (3) 'EFJ-23' electronic warfare aircraft -- with 2 shore based

(2) E-2D Hawkeye AWACs platforms -- with 2 shore based.


(4) UAV/AEW airships.

(3) S-3 Vikings ASW/tankers/SAR (new built) -- with 2 shore based.


(4) SH-60R ASW helos or AW101s.

(2) AS565 MB Panther helos.


Two shore based training squadrons will feature:

(14) T-45 Goshawks -- upgraded and equipped to carry a greater range of ordinance and sensors on their 3 underwing hardpoints. Notable weapons include anti-ship missiles, air-to-ground missiles, anti-radar missiles, AAMs, JDAMs and laser guided bombs.


(14) Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucanos -- navalised and equipped with tail hooks. The numbers of NAVY Tucanos will be subtracted from the total Air Force numbers (65).

All training aircraft must have useful weapons capability as they are also required to act as lightweight multi-role fighters (T-45s) or light attack aircraft (Super Tucanos).

Note: If an aircraft carrier is employed the AV-8Bs, deployed on the LHDs, will be transferred from the Air Force to the NAVY's Fleet Air Arm.

For further details on the design of this ship and the operation of a second aircraft carrier, see the side information column.

ARMY

The current equipment and forthcoming acquisitions for the Australian Army serve good purpose such that Future ADF Page can only suggest an increase to regular and reserve force units plus the following additions that focus mainly on advantages in detecting opposition forces:

# 1 Squadron of large Fixed Wing UAVs/UCAVs


These drones (MQ-9 Reapers) are intended to supplement the smaller RQ-7 Shadow and Scan Eagle battlefield drones. The function of such UAVs is to provide near continuous surveillance during operations with a secondary ground attack role. Such UAVs can be used as air defence decoys or scouts for forward deployment of Army rotary wing aircraft. Up to two Squadrons could be fielded with total numbers of between 20 to 30+ aircraft. Because of the threat of jamming, manned aircraft systems must be retained at the current levels presently envisaged.


# Increased Numbers & Modification of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH)


The numbers of attack helicopters need to be increased to at least 30, or even doubled from 22 to 44 machines, to help compensate for low numbers of Army personnel. The above picture shows unmodified Tiger ARHs. Proposed changes would have the under slung gun moved further back and the primary sensors placed in the nose as seen on the AH-64 Apache. Furthermore, a mast mounted radar system should be installed for air defence and anti-helicopter, or anti-COIN-aircraft, missions. For full details see the side information column.


# Tactical Airship and Helicopter UAVs

The development of a small low cost multi-day, long endurance, balloon-airship UAV, that can shadow Army patrols, will be needed to provide real time imagery. Motorised units should also carry limited numbers of easy-to-deploy quadcopter, or similar, UAVs to suppliment the larger ScanEagle-type battlefield drones.


# Squad Level UAVs

Each infantry Squad should carry two small UAV drones that are normally folded away in a slim case with an iPad or iPhone controller. These drones are for use in high threat environments - in situations where locating enemy positions is very difficult. Typically this would be when under sustained fire from unseen opponents or when entering a hostile village or urban environment.




# Light weight Tactical Periscopes for looking around and over cover.


# Night Vision and IR Scopes, with high maginifications for all front line units. Vehicle mounted sights must also be upgraded to include very high magnification detection equipment.

# Substantial increase in Anti-Tank and Anti-Air weapons systems including both man-portable and vehicle mounted varieties. The importance of such missile systems, in combination with high magnification scopes, cannot be overstated. A demonstration of Anti-Tank Guided Weapons in combat can be viewed in the second half of this video.

# Expansion of the Army to include an additional 1st Division Brigade. 

# Strengthening of Reserve Army Units with current equipment set to be phased out of 1st Division units.

# Expansion of the Army Cadets program.

# Contingency planning for the creation of a large, Irregular Civilian Infantry Force at short notice.


ADF Army Vehicles can be reviewed here.

STRATEGIC RESOURCES

Without an overall strategic framework, to facilitate the independence and retention of wealth inside the country, Australia could easily find itself completely captured by overseas interests. Moreover, a degradation of the Australian economy would likely have a detrimental impact on the ability of the ADF to maintain its current equipment and personnel.

Although open trading is desirable policies must enacted so that a certain level internal functionality can be maintained in vital areas. Some investment in the following sectors would be prudent:

# Maintenance of a domestic oil refining capability.

# Maintenance of a domestic technological and industrial capability.

# Maintenance of a domestic arms industry.

# Maintenance of a physically and mentally healthy civilian population.

# Protection of the Nation's Sovereign Wealth from foreign acquisition.

# Requirement of Financial Institutions (Commercial Banks) be insulated from overseas financial market collapses (likely from a Derivatives Market apocalypse - see HERE also.)

Thanks for visiting Future ADF Page!

As you might be aware, a great deal of what is proposed here is wishful thinking. However, with bigger budgets and bigger imaginations some of these things may come to fruition. Please treat this page as a conceptual exercise and change the structure or substitute other equipment to suit your own thoughts on how the ADF should be equipped in 2024-30.