Australia says to build biggest navy since WWII

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Australia yesterday outlined a decade-long plan to double its fleet of major warships and boost defense spending by an additional $7 billion, in the face of a quickening Asia-Pacific arms race.

Under the plan, Australia will get a navy of 26 major surface combatant ships, up from 11 today.

“It is the largest fleet that we will have since the end of the Second World War,” said Defense Minister Richard Marles.

The announcement comes after a massive build-up of firepower by rivals China and Russia, and amid growing confrontation between nervous U.S.-led allies and increasingly bellicose authoritarian governments.

Australia will get six Hunter class frigates, 11 general-purpose frigates, three air warfare destroyers and six state-of-the-art surface warships that do not need to be crewed.

At least some of the fleet will be armed with Tomahawk missiles capable of long-range strikes on targets deep inside enemy territory, a major deterrent capability.

The plan would see Australia increase its defense spending to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product, above the two percent target set by its NATO allies.

Some of the ships will be built in Adelaide, ensuring more than 3,000 jobs, but others will be sourced from U,S, designs and a still undecided design to come from Spain, Germany, South Korea or Japan.

In 2021, Australia announced plans to buy at least three U.S.-designed nuclear-powered submarines, scrapping a years-long plan to develop non-nuclear subs from France that had already cost billions of dollars.

While the Virginia-class submarines will be nuclear-powered, they will not be armed with atomic weapons and are instead expected to carry long-range cruise missiles. They represent a step-shift for the country’s open water capabilities.

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