Missiles that loiter (with intent to do mischief) – Australia is re-arming but NZ is still considering modern munitions

Australia  this week   announced it is planning to spend $A3.5bn on long-range strike missiles years ahead of schedule because of growing threats posed by Russia and China, Associated Press has  reported..

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said  the accelerated re-arming  would  increase Australia’s deterrence to potential adversaries.

Meanwhile  there  is  no  sign  of  the  Ardern government  considering   increasing  defence  spending, although  Defence  Minister  Peeni Henare  did say  this  week the government had considered sending weapons – such as the Javelin missile launchers – as part of the government’s support of Ukraine in fighting off the Russian invasion.

 “That’s been in front of Cabinet for consideration. To date, Cabinet hasn’t agreed.”

Point of  Order   would   like  to  think   the  NZ  Defence  Force   has  its  own  stock of  Javelin missiles, but  there  is  little  evidence  of that.   The US has already supplied thousands of the anti-tank missiles and hundreds of launchers  to Ukraine’s forces.

A Javelin missile, a  modern successor  to the  Bazooka,  costs  around $US1m.

Now  the Americans, in stepping  up their  military assistance, are  sending  a  batch of  100 different  portable weapons – so-called  loitering munitions.  The difference is  that  with a  Javelin the target has  to be chosen   before   the  missile is launched.

A  loitering munition can be flown to a  target-rich environment and then the richest can be selected  to be attacked.

The  Javelin can hit  something 4km away whereas the Switchblade,  as the loitering  munition is  known,  has a  range of  10km.  Although it cannot penetrate  tank  armour, its-grenade-sized  warhead is effective against unarmoured vehicles   and  groups  of troops.

Like  the Javelin, a Switchblade is  launched from a  tube. But  rather than being  a  sleek rocket capable of travelling supersonically, it is a miniature  aircraft—a  drone—with wings  that flip out  after launch and  an electric propeller which drives it forward  at 100kph for a  flight that can  last up  to 15  minutes.

It is  controlled using a  tablet that displays  videos from an optical camera and  an infrared imager which are on board the craft. When  the  operator  spots  a target, he  locks  on to it and  the  drone  accelerates towards it at up to 160kph, chasing  it  automatically if  it takes evasive action.

The  NZ  Defence  Force equipped  with  Javelins  and Switchblades would suddenly  become an effective force  capable  of fulfilling  the role New Zealanders  expect  of  it.

But  the Ardern government has  so  far  declined  to help channel Javelins  to  Ukraine, let alone  equip  the  NZ Army  with them.

ACT, for more than two weeks, has been urging the government to send any available  “desperately needed firepower” to support the Ukraine  army.

National’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee did not agree at the time, but now  says things had changed.

“I think anybody who looks at those pictures, the news footage that appears to be indiscriminate killing of civilians going about their very obviously disrupted daily lives would take a different view now from what we might have taken a few weeks ago.

“That’s a decision for the government. I don’t know what the requests are, I don’t know what the logistics line is, I would just hope that the government is investigating that prospect, that possibility.”

Brownlee said Putin sat “at the top of a pyramid so there’s in my opinion a lot of deep evil inside that whole regime”.

He called again for increased sanctions to match those launched by international partners.

Brownlee’s leader, Christopher Luxon,  on Tuesday labelled Putin a war criminal.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had refrained from going that far, saying this was a determination to be made by a court.

This week she again said there was evidence of what many were describing as war crimes including “indiscriminate killing of civilians, reports of civilians being raped” but still held back.

“I listened to the feedback from our counterparts in Ukraine, they pointed out that New Zealand’s response has been swift, that they count them amongst those countries that have taken action, that have made our views clear and have acted on them.”

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