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Australia must shore up global supply chains, says Chief of Air Force

written by Adam Thorn | August 3, 2020
A file image of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 6 Squadron E/A-18G Growler. (Defence)
A file image of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 6 Squadron E/A-18G Growler. (Defence)

The Chief of Air Force has said one of the key lessons of the coronavirus crisis is the country’s need to “shore up and secure” global supply chains.

Speaking exclusively to host Phil Tarrant on the Australia Aviation Podcast, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said Australia’s airpower capabilities “probably for too long relied on international organisations and industry”.

However, he added, “We’ve certainly been building up over the last few years, certainly the last decade, Australian industry ability to support our capabilities.”

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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 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 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 policy makers and diplomats to ‘shape’ the world to avoid military intervention.

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Talking of the need for Australia to be more self-sufficient, AIRMSHL Hupfeld said, “If we can strengthen industry capabilities to support our supply, not just for us but for our partners, then we build an industry that allows for better capabilities and sustainment of capabilities across, not just the Australian military forces, but also those of our partners in the region.

“So, I think it’s really vital.”

AIRMSHL Hupfeld was appointed to the position last year and has been tasked with reinventing the Royal Australian Air Force before his tenure ends in two years’ time.

He first joined the RAAF 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.

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