Australia on Thursday announced a restructuring of its army that’s part of a military overhaul aimed at countering China, Australia’s largest trading partner.
The restructuring includes creating a long-range missile brigade in the southern city of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, far from any potential theater for war with China. The effort also involves moving about 800 troops from Adelaide north to the cities of Brisbane, Townsville, and Darwin to help create three more specialized combat brigades.
In Darwin, a light combat brigade that’s easy to deploy will be formed. Townsville will see the formation of an armored combat brigade, and a brigade mixing both elements will be based in Brisbane, what the Australian Defense Ministry has described as a “motorized combat brigade.”
The Defense Ministry said the missile brigade in Adelaide will “become future-focused, with key future long-range strike capabilities.” The only weapons systems mentioned by the ministry are the NASAMS air defense systems and HIMARS rocket systems. HIMARS are a multiple rocket launch system designed by Lockheed Martin with a maximum range of about 190 miles.
Australia announced last month that it was purchasing 200 Tomahawk missiles from the US, which have a range of about 1,000 miles. If based in Adelaide, the Tomahawks would be nowhere near striking distance from the potential flashpoints for a war between the US and China, the South China Sea, and Taiwan.
Australian media have described the restructuring as the “biggest army overhaul in more than a decade” that’s designed to “prepare the nation’s military for a possible conflict in nearby Indo-Pacific islands.”
The military review that spurred the restructuring named China as Australia’s biggest threat despite the strong economic ties between the two nations. The review claimed China’s “assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea threatens the global rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific in a way that adversely impacts Australia’s national interests.”