More P-8s, new unmanned aircraft and early Tiger replacement in “fully costed” Defence White Paper

The RAAF will now operate 15 P-8As, alongside seven Tritons.

The long-awaited 2016 Defence White Paper has committed the Turnbull federal government to a “fully costed” Integrated Investment Program for Defence that will see $195 billion spent over the next 10 years on defence capabilities including additional P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft and new armed and ship-based unmanned aircraft.

Headlining the capability acquisitions is the government’s reaffirmation of a 12 boat Future Submarine Program via a “rolling acquisition” program, plus a continuous build program for nine Future Frigates and 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Defence capability expenditure through to 2025-26 on “maritime operations and anti-submarine warfare” will also see the acquisition of 15 P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft (up from eight currently approved) and new ship-based tactical unmanned aircraft.

“Land combat and amphibious warfare” capabilities will see the early replacement of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter in the mid-2020s, new armed unmanned aircraft, and a “fleet of light reconnaissance and attack helicopters” for Special Forces support. Meanwhile the MRH 90 helicopters will gain “role-specific” upgrades for the domestic counter-terrorism role.

File image of an Army Tiger ARH. (Paul Sadler)
The Tiger will be replaced in the mid-2020s.

Spending on “strike and air combat” capabilities includes the 72 previously-approved F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, plus new air-to-air, air-to-ground, “long-range strike” and anti-ship missiles.

“Air and sea lift” capabilities will see the “longer-term” consideration of another two KC-30A tanker transports (which would take the total fleet to nine) as well as the consideration of “further additional heavy air lift capacity at a later stage”, on top of the eight already acquired C-17A transports.

There is also a focus on ISR, space, EW and cyber capabilities, including seven MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft and a “new long-range electronic warfare support capability” using up to five modified Gulfstream G550 aircraft.

Finally, around 25 per cent of defence capability expenditure will be spent on “key enablers” such as upgrades for infrastructure like bases, weapons and training ranges, IT, simulation, science and technology, and health services.

The 10 year timeframe of the White Paper will see defence spending increase from $32.2 billion in 2016-17 rising to a projected $58.7 billion in 2025-26, on the way passing the government’s two per cent of GDP target in financial year 2020-21.


  1. Bill says

    Wow. $195 Billion.

    More P-8’s is good.
    Intrigued by the heavy lift section, A400M? Additional KC-30’s is a must.
    12 subs, can we crew them?

    Certainly take some time to digest all of the points in the white paper.

  2. mick181 says

    Don’t believe nothing till the contract is signed, the history of DWPs suggest that at best 70% of these systems will see the light of day.

    The KC-30s are interesting in that the 2 ordered last year are ex Qantas planes and are the same vintage as the first 5 aircraft thus making them more compatable. Would the RAAF be able to repeat that buy in 4-5 yrs, an immediate buy(if available) would make more sense. The buy of up to 5 G-550s makes a lot more sense then the 2 previously announced (sort off).15 P-8s are great news basically bringing the fleet size to the same number as the P-3 fleeta(with advanced trg capabilities there is less need for aircraft to be tied up in Trg). Extra heavy lift aircraft in the long term is an interesting one with really the only option being The A-400M, which we wouldn’t get before about 2024 anyway.

    The Tigers being replaced about 2025 with a helicopter with either a very old or ancient baseline design hmmm. Highly unlikely the next gen rotor craft will be available before 2030 but we can only hope. It says a lot about the AH-1Z yes thats Z how old the design is. All this could be a mute point anyway as all the western attack copters could conceivibly be out of production by then anyway.

  3. mick181 says

    Bill the ist of the new subs is due in about 15-16 years, the last in about 35 years so a long way to go to worry about crewing.Tim there is no 9th or 10th C-17 the line is closed, looks like we may get 2 more KC-30s though.

  4. Glenn says

    The only way we would get C-17’s would be surplus USAF…they aint gonna give them up. The aircraft are too goog…the A-400 NOOOOOOOOOO !!!! The tigers should be dumped like the Seasprite !!! Total waste of money.

  5. PeterE says

    WE do not have to crew 12 subs. 1/3 to 1/2 will always be in some kind of maintenance.
    We only need crew for 4-6 and the crewing issue is being addressed now.

  6. Chris says

    I suggested that we were looking at the A400M in another post here a while back and copped a bit of flack for it. I’ll say it again. We are considering the A400M to slide between the C-17A and the C130J. Add the C-27 & the KC-30 to that fleet and we have a very flexible, very capable, go anywhere, anytime, with anything, globally, at short notice airlift capability.
    As we all know, the C-17 production line is now closed. So that’s off the table. And we’re talking about more than the one white tail left for sale in this white paper. One airframe wouldn’t even be worth a mention.
    On another note, I’d love to know what Tiger replacement will be on offer for our timeframe. It would be nice if Boeing continued to develop the AH64 Apache into a ‘D’ and ‘E’ model. That’s what we should have bought in the first place.
    More KC-30’s – sensible decision. Proving their worth right now. But I can’t see them buying more ex-QF airframes as they’ll have a hell of a lot hours on them.

  7. ngatimozart says

    No us Kiwis don’t want the Tigers. They’ll be munted by the time they leave ADF service. If we were to go down that track, the AH-1Z Venom would be the far better option. It’s already marinised. Regarding the C17A acquisition, from what has been noted publicly it appears that it has died a natural death. The acquisition can be a bit slow sometimes. Having said that, the Ministry of Defence has set up a new acquisitions team headed by the current RNZAF CAF, who takes over when he leaves the RNZAF in a couple of weeks or so. The rest of the team comprises of individuals with good solid acquisitions and / or defence experience.

  8. Damian says

    Chris FYI the ‘D’ model Apache first flew almost 25 years ago and ‘E’ models are being delivered now.

  9. Tim says

    Given that this is long term.
    The KC 30s have already been announced as ex Qantas a330s that will be modified.
    Extra heavy lift at a later stage for consideration? The hercs will be 20 years old in another 3 years. Could this see an eventual replacement with the A400ms.

  10. says

    I like the ARH , but despite the fancy helmet the green blueish picture called a night sight is as true to real life as Richie the Mchaw is to sportsmanship, not very.

  11. John says

    Tony, they’re a disaster because they’re not interoperable with anything else the Army has. They have radios that can’t talk to virtually anything on the battlefield, and trying to resolve that is prohibitively expensive as they were built to work in the EU, not with the predominately US gear Australia operates.

    I think additional KC-30’s are a no-brainer, they’re very popular and highly demanded by coalition partners in the deployed environment because of their capabilities and very versatile. I think they’ll be a bit like Wedgetail and Collins class subs… shockers in development, but once fielded a real game-changer for a small military like ours.

  12. Justin says


    When you try to hang ordanance a platform wasn’t designed to talk to, you end up with the seasprite program…

    Apaches are designed to operate with Hellfires, off-the-shelf just works, unless you have the US R&D budget to back you.

  13. PaulH says

    “a “fleet of light reconnaissance and attack helicopters” for Special Forces support.” would this mean a buy of AH-6 Little Birds, or something similar?

  14. Gary says

    Daryl – that C17 was the last one manuafactured and has been purchased by Qatar. There still remains one unsold airframe.

  15. PAUL says

    Cyclone Winston has shown NZ could do with at least 1 – C17! Rather than loading up several Herks & the 757 like I saw on the news the other night. As for the Tiger ARH I like them.. NZ could buy them like we did the Seasprites & SafeAIr now owned by Airbus Helicopters could upgrade them nicely with MLU & any Avionics/Weapons upgrades required. They would be great for supporting NZ Army overseas not to mention SAS. Mind you the MD540F would be a worthwhile consideration for cost effectivness as the AH6 Littlebird of 160th SOAR has clearly shown over many years.
    Apparantly the Airbus Tiger’s Avionics are protecteted against EMP, are other ARH Helicopters the same??

  16. Alan Benn says

    i think we should also consider setting up our own Marines. We have the ships , equipment and men. Yet we borrow servicemen and helicopters from the Army and Air Force.?

  17. GBRGB says

    Good point Alan but good luck getting Navy to give up its ships, particularly the new Canberra Class vessels and Army are spending plenty at 2RAR in Townvsille getting amphib capability. I don’t think there is much appetitive to turn Australia from a Tri Service to a Quad service anytime soon.

  18. mick181 says

    Alan the Canberras were built around an Army requirement, of course the Navy should be operating them as they are the specialist ship handlers. The most common role for the
    C-17s, C-130s & C-27s are Army support that is there major job. The Canberras actually have around 60 Army & 3 RAAF, permantly posted as full members of the crew. No they don’t just borrow people from the Army.
    The ADF is not really just 3 seperate services doing their own thing, there is a large amount of integration of capabilities. You will find Navy personal on board RAAF P-3s because their mission is in reality a Naval one but the RAAF is far more experienced and set up to operate large tpt Aircraft.

  19. says

    What is the issue with Tigers ARH and Hellfire missiles ?

    The Hellfire missile was first integrated on the australian Tiger (ARH) and then integrated on the french Tiger (HAD).

    French Tigers HAD are currently deployed in Central African Republic and their are equipped with Hellfire missiles :
    These helicopters have also been involved in clashes with local militias.

  20. mick181 says

    5,000 new positions have been budgeted for in the DWP, so I’m sure some of these will be both air & ground crew. We are seeing a decrease in the number of trg ac & trg helicopters so ground crew positions can be moved from those areas to service the increase of more than 30 ac for front line squadrons accross the ADF.

  21. says

    Interesting that Defence is looking at this as a capability. Maybe the case for more G550 aircraft in the aero medical evacuation mode>

    Defence (from the White Paper) will explore options for a long-range, aero-medical evacuation and combat search and rescue aircraft to provide enhanced support to ADF operations, including operating with the amphibious ships .

    The US currently deploy the Bell Boeing V-22 OspreyS with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed in transportation and medivac operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Kuwait especially off their Amphibious Ready Groups. A number of other nations use the MV22 for Aero medical evac.

  22. Gary says

    Andrew, no other nations apart from the US currently operate the MV/CV22. Whilst Japan and Israel have ordered this platform, none have been delivered.

  23. Graham says

    There maybe one C-17 left. I would suggest that if it is still available we snap it up.

    The Hercules will need replacing sometime in the next decade. Given the track record of recent euro buys such as the NH90 and Tiger I would be wary of the A-400. It could be worth looking at the Kawasaki C-2.

  24. mick181 says

    The C-130j replacement and the extra heavy lift ac mentioned in the DWP will probably end up as one program. It is a gray area at present about what will eventually replace the C-130J. I suspect we may end up seeing a life extension on the Hercules.

    The USAF has a huge fleet of elderly C-130s that will need replacing at some stage so a future air lifter program in the C-130 to A400 class could be on the cards at some stage. The RAAF would keep a close eye on any such program. It could be a repeat of the mid 70s program to replace the Herc which was eventually canceled. Though it did lead to the C-17.

  25. Kim says

    may be a stupid question – aside from interoperability with the Yanks – why not look at eastern block attack choppers/cargo aircraft? Cheaper, more rugged and the majority of our neighbours use eastern block cr..stuff

  26. Ben says


    None of our neighbours use Russian attack helicopters. Both Indonesia and Singapore have or are getting the Apache. Not 100% percentage sure about utility helicopters but from memory most are from Europe or the United States. Besides the fact that Russia is currently under strict sanctions, which Australia pushed pretty hard to impose. You would always have a spares issue and although their kit is fairly rugged it does have weakness (engines, avionics). You would spend some much time and money integrating the units into the predominately US base ADF that it would have been cheaper and faster to just buy US. The Tiger is a perfect example of integration issues.

  27. Harry says

    Look who’s talking Jason; I seem to recall you saying that you said 8 P-8s is the maximum and I said 16 is ideal but a minim of 12 P-8s is a must. You where way off the mark there. With the amount of maritime surveillance we have to do and the fact that Mk 1 eyeballs are 100 times better than a Triton,… it looks like they agreed with my assessment!

  28. Jason says

    Found it…

    “It’s 25 years since the RAAF operated 20 P-3Cs, the more nominal number since the late 90s AP-3C upgrade has been 15-16, and it’s now down to about 12.
    The sensors carried by the Triton and the P-8 are vastly more capable than those in the AP-3C. The P-8’s radar is a generation beyond the Orion’s, and Triton’s radar can cover more than 2m km2 per mission from an altitude of >50,000ft.
    The P-8 has faster transit speeds to and from a target and persistence similar to the AP-3C, while Triton can stay aloft for 24 hours or more.
    There are also rumours both Triton and P-8 will have high-end ESM systems equivalent to or better than USN EP-3E systems.
    I’d say we’ll be better off by a long way with 19 P-8s and Tritons than with 15-16 AP-3Cs.”

    …plus I also said: “12 P-8s plus >7 MQ-4C Tritons should cover the coastline.”

    I can’t see where I said “8 is the maximum”, nor where I was “way off the mark.”

  29. Jason says

    I think I read in AA a couple of years ago that former CAF Geoff Brown had an aspirations for 16 P-8s but I never thought they’d get more than 12 and still get Tritons…big emphasis on maritime ISR!

  30. LittleBird says

    Does anyone know what “Air-to-Air Refuelling Aircraft- Government transport and communication capability ($190m)” covers? It appears on page 65 and page 73 of the Integrated Investment Program document but there is no associated explanatory paragraph?

  31. mick181 says

    Little Bird it’s the fitting out of the cabin of at least 1 or 2 KC-30s as VIP tpts to replace the 737s currently used, including a major comms upgrade(basically a part time Air Force one). I believe a contract as been signed to fit out the ex Qantas KC-30s currently in Spain. It will not effect their ability as tankers and They will still be used as tankers and as VIP tpts as needed. Maybe we will see a report on this in next months AA as part of there rundown on the DWP. The journalists have been whinging for years about not enough seats on the 737s during the PMs trips OS. I’m really looking forward to what I’m sure will be an extensive review of the Aviation side of the DWP in Aprils AA issue.

  32. ESLowe (@stewart461) says

    Somebody clarify this for me: the 2016 White pare talks about two additional C17s. Yet the C17 went out of production in 2015..with Qatar, or one of them, buying the last two of the “white tails.”

    I’m just wondering if the RAAF took two options on the last of the batch. That is, two machines, to become 9 & 10, were put in reserve until we budgeted to buy them.
    After all the U.S. Congress approved the sale of “up to 4” C17s to the RAAF.
    I mean QANTAS has orders for 8 more A380s, but it has options for 4 additional planes on top of those? Any ideas?