Australia, a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, has made concerted efforts to increase its military capacity. From welcoming the first marine rotational force in 2011 to signing the AUKUS pact for a nuclear submarine, Australia has come a long way.
The major projects undertaken by the Australian Defense Force (ADF) so far include submarines, combat reconnaissance vehicles, fifth generation F-35 stealth fighters, infantry fighting vehicles, between others.
Today, the country is pursuing its most ambitious military project – the Indigenous Joint Air Combat Management System (JABMS), which could be a game-changer in the near future. JABMS, also known as AIR-6500, forms the heart of future integrated air and missile defense capabilities, according to Australian Defense Magazine.
The AIR 6500 is the cornerstone of the Royal Australian Air Force’s fifth generation arch. Its aim is to bring together all platforms and sensors from all combat domains into a single interface that can track threats, organize a combined response, and guide that response to the target. It is adorned with the phrase “all sensors, best shooter”.
In August last year, the Australian Department of Defense (DoD) selected Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for the AIR6500 Phase I project, as previously reported by Airforce Technology.
In partnership 🤝 @northropgrumman and @Lockheed Martin have been shortlisted as key partners for the AIR 6500.#aerospace # AIR6500 #strategic partnership #IAMD https://t.co/HKG5kwtWSY pic.twitter.com/2KBFWPZjR2
– AeroMedGroup (@AeroMed_Group) August 5, 2021
Australia is currently relying on the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for surveillance, and one possibility for the next generation OPIR satellites that are underway would be to maintain this dependence. Both of these systems are made in the United States.
However, with the recent signing of the AUKUS agreement (Australia, UK and US) and the rapid growth of Australia’s space sector, Canberra may soon develop its own early warning and monitoring capability. New sovereign capability may be able to provide the true persistence required to counter China’s growing maneuverable, short-flight threats, according to National Interest.
The AIR 6500 project should start with the development of such a capability. This should aid in the detection, tracking and interception of long-range ballistic and cruise missile systems, as well as hypersonic glide vehicles.
What is the AIR-6500?
The Australian Defense Force (ADF) will obtain a JBAMS as part of phase 1 of the AIR6500, which will serve as the framework for future integrated air and missile defense capabilities. This will provide the ADF with better situational awareness and protection against increasingly advanced air and missile threats, as well as increased interoperability with allies.
The ultimate goal of Network Centric Warfare is to Connect Everything, meaning that every person, platform, sensor and weapon is connected to the system and is assigned an IP address.
The three Australian services have slowly increased their internal connectivity – with varying degrees of success – and now a significant step forward in building a fully integrated national system has been taken in the form of the AIR-6500, according to Asia Pacific. Defense Reporter. .
Successful missile early warning requires speed, and a sovereign capability with a persistent wide field of view would maximize coverage of possible missile threat arcs from the north as well as the east and west coasts of Australia.
“The AIR 6500 is definitely the cornerstone of the integrated air and missile defense capability,” said Christine Zeitz, Asia-Pacific CEO of Northrop Grumman. “It will be used to provide the ADF with theater-wide missile defense.”
The technology being delivered to Australia comes from the U.S. military’s integrated missile defense combat command system, which is at the heart of the U.S. military’s next-generation air and missile defense capability, according to Zeitz. To put it another way, this model is an “all sensor, better shooter” model.
“A lot of people are actively working on the AIR 6500 today and the majority of them are in Australia,” said Steve Froelich, Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) program manager for the AIR 6500.
“The American and Australian teams share information every day, but today all of the work we are contracted for is mostly done in Australia. We are going through seven areas of harm reduction, which is just a maturation of the program.
LMA is considering a wide range of industry-wide technologies for its AIR 6500 test system. One of the candidates is a “virtualized Aegis weapon system,” which uses a tactical cloud for – as Froelich describes it. – “pack Aegis in a virtual and expeditionary form”.
LMA organized a roadshow in Australia and a virtual meeting with the New Zealand defense industry, which identified 130 SMEs that could potentially contribute to the Air 6500 solution.
The China factor
As China’s strategic and regional nuclear forces take shape, the missile threat is growing rapidly. According to a report released by the US Department of Defense on China’s military might, “The accelerated pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion could allow the PRC to have up to 700 nuclear warheads deliverable by 2027. The PRC probably intends to have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads. by 2030, surpassing the pace and size of [US] DoD planned for 2020 ”.
According to another report According to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China’s nuclear surge “could also be intended to support a new strategy of limited nuclear first use … [which] would allow Chinese leaders to leverage their nuclear forces to accomplish Chinese political goals beyond survival, such as coercing another state or deterring US intervention in a war against Taiwan.
The threat posed by improved long-range conventional missiles and the danger of future submarine-launched hypersonic missiles are among the reasons the AIR-6500 is becoming even more important.
China’s hypersonic weapon capabilities, particularly the DF-17 and the recently tested “FOBS-HGV” (Fractional Orbital Bombardment System – Hypersonic Glide Vehicle), have left Western countries concerned.
China reportedly tested a nuclear-capable FOBS-HGV over the South Pole in July and August, releasing what could have been a submunition over the South China Sea at speeds above Mach 5.
The main reason for moving to a distributed and disaggregated missile early warning system is to make it more difficult for an opponent to use counter-space capabilities against them. This method can potentially be useful for spotting hypersonic weapons, he says.
Australia-China relations remain strained due to premiere participation in Quad [US, Japan, Australia and India], which China has called Asian NATO. Canberra’s membership in AUKUS for the acquisition of nuclear submarines made matters worse.
Its close cooperation with the United States, China’s great rival, has made Australia a direct threat to China and vice versa. As the Chinese military undergoes rapid modernization, it is understandable that Australia remains enthusiastic and committed to the AIR-6500 project – its most ambitious and advanced military program to date.