Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Defence at crossroads as Project Sirius looms

Defence at crossroads as Project Sirius looms


By Keith Locke Green MP

Pressure is on the Government to give the green light to a $445 million electronic upgrade for the Air Force Orions.

The six Orions are well regarded by New Zealanders. They search for people lost at sea, and look out for illegal fishing boats.

But why do they need an extra $445 million spent on them? The answer lies in the tender documents for upgrade, called Project Sirius.

Here we find that a new radar and electronics system is needed for "capability to conduct Combat Maritime Air Operations [defined as Anti-Surface Unit Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare] and Combat Support Air Operations".

The document doesn't envisage these combat capabilities being needed for "low level security challenges to New Zealand including incursions into New Zealand's area of maritime economic interest." In other words, the Orions don't need Project Sirius to do their fisheries surveillance and rescue work.

The same applies in Australia, which is undertaking a similar Orion upgrade. In July the Australian Defence Department released Defence Review 2000, which described Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance as a "non-defence task" which might more appropriately be done by outside the defence force, "rather than using Defence capabilities [i.e. on the Orions] designed and acquired for warfighting".

Such "warfighting", including submarine hunting, shows up strongly in our Project Sirius tender document. It talks about periscopes, specifying that "a submarine with a radar cross section of 0.1 square metres shall be detected at a minimum range of 20 nautical miles." There are also specifications for new sonar buoys, magnetic anomaly detectors, torpedos, electronic systems to counter enemy radar, and a hugely expensive computer system.

This fixation on submarines is strange when there has been no submarine threat to New Zealand for over fifty years, and we're unlikely to face one. The tender document admits that the Orion's work on "the low level security challenges to New Zealand would be restricted to surface [as opposed to `sub-surface'] surveillance".

The Orion's anti-submarine capability is dictated by New Zealand's traditional "allies", particularly Australia, Britain and the United States. Last year our Orions participated in five anti-submarine exercises in Australia and five in Britain (as well as one in Korea and one off South East Asia). There weren't any with the United States, because of the ANZUS rift, but Project Sirius aims to tie us closely to America's world-wide surveillance system.

Already the RNZAF uses the US Joint Maritime Command Information System (JMCIS), According to the tender document, Project Sirius will enable New Zealand to participate fully in the "US DoD program (sic) of migrating automated C4I systems to DII/COE compliance" - which means our command, control, communications and intelligence systems will be part of the Department of Defence's Defence Information Infrastructure and Common Operating Picture.

The tender document explains that this linkage enables the Orions to be used, far from our shores, "as part of a larger coalition force integrated into an international, probably US-led, coalition maritime order of battle".

Do we want to go down that road? The Government's guiding document, Defence Beyond 2000, points out "that a Great Power's assessment of where its national interest lies on major geopolitical questions may - on occasions - be substantially different from ours". The report refers to differences in East Asia and the Middle East policy.

Do we want to get caught up in another Gulf conflict? Or do we want our Orions tracking "enemy" nuclear-armed submarines for the Americans - thereby undermining our anti-nuclear policy?

The fall-back position in the Project Sirius tender document is that it's always good, technically, to have "a very high level of interoperability with our Allies".

In practice we've already got enough "interoperability" to tell the Australians, for example, about fisheries violations or people lost at sea.

Shouldn't we be trying to get RNZAF to put priority on surveillance in our region? In the 1998/99 year the six Orions spent only 551 hours on South Pacific (including New Zealand) fisheries protection, search and rescue and EEZ surveillance. More time was spent on the Orion's warfighting preparations.

The conflicts in East Timor, Bougainville, Fiji and the Solomons show that our emphasis should be on peacekeeping, with a wide range of partners, many of them non-aligned nations. We perform this role best if we're an independent peace-making nation, not some adjunct of US-led coalition forces.

To upgrade our peacekeeping capability we need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars new radios, vehicles and several other items.

We won't be able to do this within the current defence budget if we waste $445 million on Project Sirius. And we'd be buying further financial problems down the track. Operating at the high-tech end of anti-submarine surveillance means regular upgrades.

Project Sirius just isn't appropriate to a New Zealand defence policy for the 21st century. ends


ENDS

To News Editors: This 800 word feature article by Green Party Defence Spokesperson Keith Locke discusses a little-known but expensive proposal for New Zealand's defence force. Contacts are Keith Locke 04 4706710, 025 528 353, 09 3770149. Paul Bensemann, press secretary 04 4706679, 021 214 2665.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

KiwiBailed: KiwiBuild Head Officially Resigns

The head of Kiwibuild, Stephen Barclay has officially resigned from the role. In a statement issued on his behalf, it was announced that he would step down from today [Friday].

Housing Minister Phil Twyford's office said he would not be commenting on Mr Barclay's resignation as it was an employment matter. Last month, Mr Twyford confirmed that Mr Barclay had not been at work for a number of weeks. More>>

 

Welfare Stats: Rise In Hardship Numbers Shows Income Inadequacy

The latest Ministry of Social Development quarterly report show that a record number of people have received hardship assistance from work and income, with an additional 40,000 hardship payments made between September and December 2018, compared to the previous quarter of the same year... More>>

ALSO:

DHBs "Prepared": Junior Doctors Strike Again

The needs of acute patients will be met during tomorrow's junior doctor strike, a DHB spokesperson says... Almost 3000 junior doctors are expected to walk off the job, which will affect all DHBs apart from West Coast District Health Board. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On MBIE’s Social Media Scam

Given the ambit of MBIE’s work, almost any form of social activity could qualify as being part of MBIE’s brief, so the privacy threats posed by this training programme are extensive. The current oversight safeguards seem threadbare to non-existent. More>>

ALSO:

JusTrade: New Campaign For A 21th Century Trade Agenda

‘Critique is no longer enough. If anything is to really change, we need to step away from the existing framework and take a first-principles approach to rethinking what will work for the 21st century.’ More>>

Earlier:

Gordon Campbell: Thompson + Clark Are The Tip Of The Iceberg

How can we tell where and how any lines are being drawn? Oversight is not exactly robust. If it were, Thompson + Clark would have been out of contention for state security work ten years ago. More>>

Trainers: Taratahi Institute of Agriculture In Interim Liquidation

Taratahi employ 250 staff and this year has provided education to over 2500 students. Taratahi owns and manages 8 farms throughout the country. More>>

ALSO:

IPCA Report: Complaints About Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha

The Authority has found that DC Haumaha acted improperly by approaching staff and others to provide information to support him to refute the allegations about his 2016 conduct, or solicited other staff to do so on his behalf... More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels