The Australian Government has announced the most significant changes to Defence policy and capability plans since the 2016 Defence White Paper.

The new policy setting identifies three new strategic objectives for the ADF to counter the most consequential strategic realignment in the Indo-Pacific since World War II.

They are to deploy military power to shape Australia’s strategic environment, deter actions against Australia’s interests and, when required, respond with credible military force.

The government will invest about $270 billion over the coming decade in new and upgraded Defence capabilities, including more potent and long-range combat systems and more secure supply chains.

The government will also continue to deepen our alliance with the United States and strengthen our regional engagement across the Indo-Pacific, including through the Pacific Step-Up, and increase the ADF’s ability to respond to natural disasters, including within Australia.

'The challenges and changing nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests.'

Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty and Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell said the Strategic Update set a new defence policy to better position Defence to respond to rapid global changes affecting Australia’s interests.

In a statement, they said Australia’s security environment was markedly different from the relatively more benign one of even four years ago. 

"Trends including military modernisation, technological disruption and the risk of state-on-state conflict are further complicating our nation’s strategic circumstances. The Indo-Pacific is at the centre of greater strategic competition, making the region more contested and apprehensive," they said.

"Within Australia, the intensity and frequency of disasters – such as the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires – will test Australia’s resilience. Disaster response and resilience measures demand a higher priority in defence planning. These trends are continuing and will potentially sharpen as a result of the coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic."

The strategy will ensure Australia can continue to deliver a potent, agile, affordable and sustainable defence force.

It will provide more flexibility to deal with grey-zone challenges, increase the ADF’s ability to project military power and give it the ability to support our region to maintain cooperative security and respond to crises.

The government has also committed to expand the Australian Signals Directorate's cyber capability to disrupt malicious actors offshore that are targeting Australians, and build new strategic mitigation options to block malicious cyber activity before it can impact networks in Australia.

According to the Strategic Update, although the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are unclear, it has altered the economic trajectory of the region and the world with implications for Australia’s prosperity and security.

The trend towards a more competitive and contested region will not be fundamentally altered by the effects of the pandemic, but it is sharpening some aspects of strategic competition between the US and China.

As one component of these plans, Australia will also invest in new long-range strike capabilities to maintain regional security as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.

A first step is the purchase of the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) will be purchased from the United States Navy at an estimated cost of $800 million.

The new missile is a significant upgrade from the AGM-84 air-launched Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was introduced in the early 1980s, with a range of 124km. The LRASM has a range of more than 370km.

The LRASM will initially be used on the F/A-18F Super Hornets and has the flexibility to be integrated onto other Defence aircraft. Training on the weapon system is set to begin in 2021.

LRASM will be another fifth-generation capability added to the Air Force inventory to protect Australia’s maritime region, including our sea lines of communication and helping ensure regional maritime security.

New investments will be made across the air, maritime and land domains to give the Australian Defence Force more options to protect Australia's interests.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds announced the new strategy at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra on Wednesday.

"The challenges and changing nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests," Mr Morrison said.

"These new capabilities will provide a strong credible deterrent in our region that will help provide the stability and security we need.

"We are committed to peace and stability in the region, and an open, inclusive, prosperous and sovereign Indo-Pacific."

Senator Reynolds said Australia's strategic environment was changing rapidly.

"To keep our own nation secure, we must keep adapting to these changes and today, to that purpose, and to that objective, the Prime Minister is launching these documents that address the priorities of strategy and capability," she said.

For the full details of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan, go to https://www.defence.gov.au/StrategicUpdate-2020/