Sunday 19 May 2019 | 16:29 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Defence & Security

The strategic order and the nature of conflict are changing. Security competition between nations and military strategy are growing in complexity even as new transnational challenges deepen. The Lowy Institute’s experts in security and defence look at changing strategic relations, security architecture, nuclear strategy, military capabilities and defence and intelligence policy.

Commercial drones: Privatising air power

In irregular wars, the state has traditionally had a monopoly on the use of air power. This has now been overturned. With the rise of small, low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf drones, armed non-state actors are now also able to employ air power. Today, the leading armed non-state group

Leave the Iran nuclear deal alone

In 2015, now-President Donald Trump said of the Iran nuclear agreement (otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA]) that 'Never ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran. And I mean never.’ Of course, Trump has

Don’t discount the chances of a new Korean war

Robert Kelly all but discounts the possibility of conflict on the Korean Peninsula. While this is plainly wrong, he is right on other points, namely the emotional differences between South Korea and America in how they react to the North Korean threat.   The American press does inflate

North Korea: Trump’s terrible binary choice

It is critical that we understand what North Korea’s test of a thermonuclear device means. North Korea claims that the weapon is miniaturised to fit onto a Hwasong­–14 intercontinental ballistic missile. We must assume this claim is true. North Korea’s advances have exceeded every expectation

The future for US Marines in Darwin

This article is the second in a two-part series. Part one focused on the Exercise Crocodile Strike. Part two reflects on the future of the Marine rotational force. The Top End’s monsoonal weather pattern is the major reason why US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) is currently limited to

Observing Crocodile Strike

This article is the first in a two-part series on Exercise Crocodile Strike. Last week I was given privileged access by Australia’s Department of Defence to join a small group of regional military observers (from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan) on Exercise Crocodile Strike, a joint drill

Islamic State is changing the face of terrorism

If thwarted terrorist plots are anything to go by, then Australia surely does live up to its reputation as the lucky country. In the past month there were two narrowly missed major attacks that were part of the same conspiracy against Australian aviation. The latest plot was the thirteenth

Why do US warships keep having accidents?

James Goldrick has identified possible systemic problems in the US Navy that help explain recent accidents involving US warships. These problems may not be unique to the US Seventh Fleet and there has to be sympathy for Vice Admiral Aucoin, the Commander of the Seventh Fleet, who was made the

Recognising women’s roles in countering violent extremism

Acts of violent extremism, such as the attacks in Barcelona earlier this month, are becoming a routine feature of the global security landscape. Such threats require little in the way of military infrastructure but are instead reliant upon a social capacity to fatally persuade individuals – often

Trump’s Afghanistan policy: Best in 16 years

Part One of this series looked at what President Trump’s recent Afghanistan policy announcement told us about the President and his administration. This post examines the policy itself and its consequences for Australia. Trump claims he has learned from history in his study of the Afghan war. If

Should war require parliamentary approval?

In light of US President Donald Trump's erratic attempts to intimidate North Korea, several prominent voices have argued that Australia's parliament should be granted control over any decision to go to war. I think that would be a mistake, though not for the reason you might think. Former

Collision at sea

The recent spate of US Navy accidents at sea has focused attention on the state of that service and raised questions about readiness and operational effectiveness in the Seventh Fleet. It has also been the subject of obvious schadenfreude on the part of at least one Chinese media outlet. Although

South China Sea: Beijing raises the temperature again

Something significant is happening in the South China Sea. Philippine media has reported that, over the past week, a flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels, accompanied by PLA Navy frigates and Chinese Coast Guard vessels, have maintained a presence very close to Thitu (which Manila calls 'Pagasa'),

South China Sea patrols: Does the Trump team get it?

On 10 August, a US Navy warship challenged China’s implied claim to a territorial sea around Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. By lingering for six hours within 12 nautical miles of the massive island China has constructed on the reef, the USS John McCain affirmed the principle, clearly

Korea: Trump's nuclear bluster has just one precedent

President Donald Trump's threat to rain 'fire and fury' on North Korea has shocked the world. Commentators have rushed to remind us that American leaders normally try to turn down the heat when an international crisis threatens to escalate out of control. Trump has done the exact opposite. In fact,

Some lessons from the foiled Sydney terror plot

We don’t yet know all the details, but from what we do know there are both disturbing and perplexing elements to the Islamic State-supported terrorist plot to blow up an airliner departing from Sydney. Here are some early thoughts on the issues that should engage our minds as a result of the

Australia, US and NZ military co-operation augurs well

Last month a combined force from five allied nations, including a fleet of 33 warships and submarines, over 200 aircraft and more than 33,000 military personnel, defeated an ‘enemy force’ in 20 locations across northern Australia. The enemy, of course, was an imaginary one and the battle was a

Why Moriarty is a good choice for Defence Secretary

Pundits were surprised and eyebrows raised late last week when the news broke that Greg Moriarty had been selected as the replacement for Dennis Richardson as Secretary of the Department of Defence. Peter Jennings, a former Deputy Secretary of Defence and five-year-long head of the Australian

Climate change will place new pressures on LHD vessels

Greg Colton’s article on Talisman Sabre 2017 highlights Australia’s new amphibious assault capacity through the Landing Helicopter Class (LHD) ships HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Canberra. Colton states that 'for the first time in three decades, Australia now has the military capability to back up its

Talisman Sabre 17: The realisation of defence strategy

It was an Australian Defence Force (ADF) public relation officer’s dream. ABC news footage, delivered directly into the living rooms of Australian families, showed Australian troops and Australian armoured vehicles streaming across the beach and onwards into the hinterland of Queensland.

National security changes – Australian style

Last week brought what are likely to be two seismic changes to Australia’s security and intelligence community. While the Independent Intelligence Review has been broadly welcomed, reaction to the establishment of a super ministry has been much more mixed even, it seems, within Cabinet.

From ONA to ONI: Getting closer to the original plan

The new report on the current state and working of the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) was prepared by two very knowledgeable, able and experienced people in Michael L’Estrange and Stephen Merchant, after wide consultation. So it must be very satisfying for those currently working in the

The Australian Intelligence tradition

Most of the early commentary on Malcolm Turnbull’s changes to Australia’s security and intelligence arrangements focused on his decision to bring together the principal domestic security agencies – ASIO, the AFP, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and

Politics and policy meet in new Home Affairs Department

After almost two decades of consideration during which the case for it has always failed to convince government ministers, the Australian Government has decided to go ahead with the creation of a new 'super department' to oversee Australia’s domestic security and intelligence system. The

Malabar 17 exercise: The China subtext

The annual Malabar naval exercise series is underway in Chennai, with the at-sea phase in the Bay of Bengal running from 14-17 July. This year’s iteration is notable for a number of reasons. While Malabar 17 won’t be the largest-ever exercise in the series – Malabar 07-2, the second of the two

The nuclear weapon ban treaty is significant but flawed

On 7 July 2017 a UN negotiating conference adopted a draft treaty banning nuclear weapons – specifically, their development, production, possession, stationing and deployment, use, threat of use, testing, and so on. The treaty will be open for signature on 20 September 2017, and will enter

Lifting the veil on jihad

In April 2015 a fresh-faced Australian-born doctor appeared in a slick Islamic State video extolling the virtues of making hijra to what he portrayed as a utopian Islamic society. The video showed the doctor, Tareq Kamleh, in a pristine and well-equipped paediatric ward tending to a premature

Explaining Australia’s sharp turn to information warfare

Australia's place in the Asian military scene took a sharp turn last week when the Turnbull Government announced the creation of the country's modified version of a US Cyber Command. The move followed the 2016 Defence White Paper, which foreshadowed a near doubling of defence spending in the decade

US-China at sea incidents are likely the new normal

There has been yet another spate of US-China incidents involving US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) probes in and over China’s bordering seas. In February, there was a close encounter between a US Navy P-3 Orion aircraft and a Chinese surveillance aircraft 

AUSMIN: Regional issues deserve top billing

Today’s AUSMIN could hardly be better timed, following recent terrorist attacks, North Korean nuclear provocations, and the weekend’s Shangri-La dialogue.  But, as is so often the case with AUSMIN, the danger is the urgent will crowd out the important. Both Australia and the US find it

US FONOPs: Game on again in the South China Sea

According to this Reuters report, which was soon followed by others citing a Pentagon spokesman, a US Navy warship, the destroyer USS Dewey, has recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. This was the first such challenge to Beijing by the

Countering China’s submarine operations in South Asia

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka earlier this month, reports emerged that the Sri Lankan government had turned down China's request for a submarine docking in Colombo harbor. Beijing, apparently, wanted one of its submarines (ostensibly on its way to the Gulf of Aden for '

The Australian budget and counterterrorism

ASIO, ASIS and the AFP are all expected to receive substantial funding boosts in the federal budget to be handed down tonight. The additional funding for intelligence agencies - some of which will reportedly come from the foreign aid budget -  is apparently intended to facilitate 'frontline'

Pages