CBC News & Agence France-Presse – 2007-06-20 22:59:04
Australia Spending $10 Billion on Navy
Neighbours Fear Arms Race
(June 20, 2007 ) — Australia is beefing up its navy with a fleet of advanced destroyers and warships. But this latest expenditure, amounting to nearly $10 billion, has caused neighbouring countries to warn of a regional arms race.
The new fleet, consisting of three F100 Air Warfare Destroyers and two amphibious landing ships, will be built by Australian defence contractors in partnership with the Spanish company Navantia.
The F100 ships will be used for everything from defence and escort duties to peacetime diplomatic missions and natural disaster response.
“The Royal Australian Navy will undergo a quantum leap in its air warfare capability when the F100 enters service,” the Defence Department said in a statement. The first F100 will be delivered in 2014, with the other two following in 2016 and 2017.
The purchases will transform Australia’s navy into one of the most powerful in the Asian region, with two amphibious carriers able to land more than 2,000 troops, 16 attack and transport helicopters and up to 23 Abrams tanks.
“They are very significant decisions for the future combat capability of the Royal Australian Navy,” Prime Minister John Howard said. “They represent a very long-term investment in the future defence capability of this country.”
He said the ships “will enhance our capability for years into the future, particularly — but not only — in our part of the world.”
Instability sparks buildup
The new fleet is the latest expenditure in Australia’s recent defence spending boost. The country has already started a wider $42-billion defence procurement program amid concerns of growing instability in the Asia-Pacific.
Several nations, including Thailand and Indonesia, have warned Australia’s move could spark off a regional arms race.
The Australian government said the program is a sign of the country’s defence commitment to the region.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia needs a strong defence force and the ability to deploy overseas quickly.
“It’s not that we have hostile intent towards anybody,” Downer told local television.
He says Australia sets an example in the region by being open about its defence plans.
“Our view is that defence policy should be transparent, and so we are happy to talk to countries in the region about what our defence plans, in particular our defence equipment plans, actually are,” Downer said.
With files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Russian Fighter Planes Sale to Syria Alarms Israel
JERUSALEM (June 19, 2007) — Israel is concerned about reported Russian deliveries of advanced MiG-31 fighter planes to its enemy. Syria as part of an armaments drive, the top-selling Hebrew daily reported on Tuesday.
The MiG-31, considered one of the best fighters in the world, can carry guided missiles with a range of more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) and is capable of striking 24 different targets simultaneously, Yediot Aharonot said.
“This information is more concerning when put in the context of massive armaments purchases made recently by the Syrians,” Yuval Steinitz, an MP from Israel’s right-wing opposition Likud party, was quoted as telling the daily.
“If Syria acquires the MiG-31 we can no longer rule out the idea that this country is preparing for war,” said Steinitz, a former chairman of Israel’s defence and foreign affairs parliamentary committee.
A Russian newspaper reported on Tuesday that Russia has begun delivering five MiG-31E interceptors to Syria as part of an agreement reached this year, and that Moscow also plans to sell Damascus its MiG-29M/M2 dual role fighters.
The Israeli media has recently carried alarmist reports that a war with Syria could erupt as early as this summer, following Israeli intelligence reports that Damascus was preparing for such a conflict.
Two Israeli cabinet ministers have confirmed, however, that the government has approached Syria about the possibility of renewing peace talks.
Peace talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000, mainly because of a dispute over the return of the strategic Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981.
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