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.”