The Chief of Air Force has insisted the days of the RAAF competing with the Navy and Army are long gone, because a post-COVID-19 world requires an integrated military approach.
Speaking exclusively to host Phil Tarrant on the Australian Aviation Podcast, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said, “There’s a very strong level of trust now within the strategic centre, and between the services, so that we’re not out there fighting against each other for that rare dollar that we all seek to be able to acquire the capabilities we need.
“We have conversations to make sure we can prioritise between all of us to find out what is the best outcome.”
AIRMSHL Hupfeld was giving one of his first public interviews since the government announced it was committing $270 billion to defence spending over the next 10 years – some $75 million more than previously planned.
The 2020 Force Structure Plan suggested Australia was seeking to take a more pro-active approach to defence in the Indo-Pacific region, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring that a post-COVID-19 world could be “poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly”.
It was followed by the 2020 Defence Strategic Update that advocated a more holistic approach to combating tension – including a ‘Shape, Deter and Respond’ ethos that advocated the military working closely with policymakers and diplomats to ‘shape’ the world to avoid military intervention if possible.
“People are much more aware of how they need to engage with their joint colleagues,” said AIRMSHL Hupfeld of the need to work more closely with other departments of the military. “Yes, we’re collegiate, but I don’t use that in a sense that means that we’re not prepared, we’re not courageous enough to stand up and put our views forward.
“What we do is take a very appropriately prioritised look at what’s needed for the best capabilities for the nation, and we have very robust conversations about that.
“Of course, I’d take more aeroplanes, I’d get more of all the capabilities that I think are important, but there is a limit to the resource that’s available, we respect that and we understand it.
“And so we have those conversations to make sure we can prioritise between all of us to find out what is the best outcome.”
AIRMSHL Hupfeld was appointed to the top job last year and has been tasked with reinventing the RAAF before his tenure ends in two years’ time, including introducing the much-anticipated Loyal Wingman AI aircraft.
He first joined the service as an RAAF Academy Cadet in January 1980, and his distinguished career included being awarded a Distinguished Service Cross in recognition of his performance as Commanding Officer during the Iraq War.