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Defence and Terrorism

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In the last decade, the goalposts were more than moved. 
They have been blasted away!

One of the most emotive subjects around the world since September 11, 2001 is the subject of terrorism and how to handle it.  Since then, war has been redefined as something not between countries, but between specialised interest groups, often religious based and mostly centred around energy or resources.  Fanatical groups often overlay their belief systems with the legitimate desires to redress an equality or equity issue, or to further a claim over resources or territory.


Since war between nations is now probably a curio from the past, legitimate questions can be asked as to the role of the leftover weapons of those eras, such as huge battleships, aircraft carriers, giant bombers and fighter jets.  Warfare in more recent times has been by landmine, car or suicide bomb, small arms or chemical warfare.  An increasing fear is the development of smaller scale nuclear weapons, chemical or biological warfare and the introduction of these weapons or agents into populations.


Defence research is increasing being committed to communications technology for interception of communications between terrorist cell members, spying satellites for capturing images of suspicious activity, and guided missile technology for anti-terrorist actions. 


However, defence spending is still largely focussed on major items of expenditure such as submarines, ships and high technology strike fighters, which seem largely out of step with the needs as outlined previously.


For Australia, much of our defence needs can be met through the development and implementation of a genuine Coast Guard service, with over the horizon radar, combined with satellite systems for guidance of both vessels for protection and arrest, or missiles and weaponry for defence.  This system has largely been described in the Drugs and Customs policy document, relevant because much of the commercial funding for terrorist organizations comes from trade in illicit drugs and other substances and sometimes, people smuggling.


We still need an air strike capability, as we have Northern neighbours who have long coveted our wide open plains and agricultural and mineral resources for their ever growing populations.  A mobile and relevant strike force is necessary to ensure that our defence capabilities are taken seriously and we can speak and negotiate with confidence and authority on border protection and sovereignty.  Having them will mean we may never need to use them.  Not having them is likely to create a situation where we wish we did.  The question is as to how much air strike capacity, and in what form?  How many fighter jets?  How many helicopters?  And the key question, what are the components of an Air Force that is not only defence and strike capable and a significant deterrent, but versatile enough to assist or play leading roles in disaster relief, coastal patrol, drug and custom support and be the leading edge surveillance service in this part of the world?


The same could be said of our Army and ground defences.  What do we need to make the difference here?  During World War 2, huge army tanks were a significant force to be reckoned with, but the battlefield has changed.  It’s unlikely we will ever fight a war with those tactics and strategies again.  Light, fast, ground attack vehicles with anti-terrorism focus could also double as all-terrain vehicles, suitable for disaster relief vehicles in times of earthquake, flood or other disaster work. 


In times of disaster relief, communications systems are critical and most regular forms of communication are destroyed in the disaster.  Light, fast all terrain vehicles can ferry personnel and equipment on the ground, especially equipment that may be unsuitable for helicopter transport.  However, for reconnaissance work, helicopters are unsurpassed for ability to work in remote or isolated locations, carry light loads, fight fires, lift out personnel without landing and more.  At some time during the disaster, bulk resources need to be moved in, Defence Force resources need to include troop carrying and bulk equipment transports, whether ship, ground based trucks, or fixed wing or helicopter aircraft.


An ideal solution would be for an international team to be developed, a Global Foreign Aid Agency, which could commandeer resources from the regional defence forces.  This would not be a political solution, but a regional, civil defence network, drawing resources from those existing currently around the world.  That could include some of the currently mothballed resources lying rotting in ports and deserts throughout the USA and other countries.  Past their effective use-by date for state of the art defence force capability, they would be ideal platforms for civil defence work.


Resources such as an aircraft carrier to use as an airport in case of earthquake or tsunami type disasters where land based landing ability has been lost or does not exist.  Cargo ships could rendezvous with the aircraft carrier and cargo helicopters could deliver the supplies and human resources as required quickly, directly to the disaster site.


Resources such as passenger and cargo aircraft, currently sitting in the desert in South Western USA.  These are serviceable aircraft, just surplus.  With the airline industry likely to have more bankruptcies in the next five years, more, very modern aircraft are likely to join them.  These only need to be serviced and ready to fly, not necessarily flying all the time, but a reserve capacity for when necessary.


Absolutely necessary for each defence force is the heavy lift helicopter, capable of carrying many tonnes of weight at a time.  These can be used to ferry vehicles, containers and other bulky items into remote areas, for a whole variety of reason, OR for extracting equipment from those regions, whether for disaster relief or anti terrorism situations.


Combining resources and thinking strategically like this could equip our defence forces with the capability to be a genuine strike force and deterrent to aggressors, but with the versatility to be a useful civil defence resource as well.


A further issue for defence forces globally, except in communist or conscription based states, is the recruitment of new members.  Changing the focus to this new philosophy may have the effect of attracting a new generation of recruits with a different philosophy, a global attitude, to this vital area of our economy.  Defence forces are not made up of sailors, soldiers and fighter pilots, robots programmed to do as they are told regardless of the order or outcome, they are people from our communities who have chosen to join the defence forces as a career.  Yet the attitude displayed from the defence forces in general at the moment would have you wondering.  Whilst discipline is necessary, so is humanity.


Where to in the future?  A change in strategic thinking, combined with a reallocation of resources.  Heavy equipment requirements mostly ceased with the end of the Cold War and for Australia, our last heavy aircraft carrier was the “Melbourne”.  We do have heavy tanks, and a number of warships of varying sizes.  However, our future requirements are more likely to be in the areas of fast patrol boat sized vessels with missile and helicopter capability, and fast, light, all terrain vehicles and equipment.


The greatest defence force is likely to be in intelligence capacity though.  In satellite communications, surveillance capacity, long range photography, over the horizon radar and radio listening capacity, as well as interception of telephone and handheld communication device messages between terrorist groups and drug organizations.  Rather than tackling these forces head on in a guerrilla style war, more success is likely to be had in disrupting their communication lines, financial supply, resources of all kinds, and prevent their implementation of offensive strategies.


A good example of this is in Afghanistan in 2007/2008.  Although a huge drug seizure was recently reported, our surveillance capacity needs to be developed to the point where the production of drugs, right from the planting of the poppy seeds in Afghanistan, or the crops in Columbia or wherever they are, for intervention at the earliest of stages.  Drugs are a valuable source of revenue for terrorist organizations, and curtailing the drug supply will not only prevent the damage that drugs do within our communities, but will deplete the financial resources of the terror organization and stop them financing their offensive operations.


If helicopters can spot drugs in the hills and national parks around our own cities and towns, and satellite photography can convict a New South Wales farmer for ploughing in native grasses or building a farm dam without a permit, then surely the same can happen with the thousands of poppy farms in Afghanistan and Columbia, and strike fighter jets should be able to clean out the crops with incendiary strikes, in the name of and for the lives of our children and families.


If anyone wants to cry foul for the loss of incomes of those “poor farmers”, then educate and fund these same poor farmers into growing other, more worthwhile and important and valuable food crops that the planet so urgently needs right now.


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