Australia’s ballistic missile defence options

North Korea’s ongoing ballistic missile testing highlights how important such rockets are to many modern military forces. Many have sizeable surface-to-surface missile forces intended for a variety of tactical and strategic roles. For these nations, ballistic missiles provide a way to strike well-defended land targets without acquiring the complicated and costly aircraft armadas of Western nations. Until now, Australia has not needed Ballistic Missile Defences (BMD). This situation is rapidly changing as North Korea and China expand their already impressive ballistic missile forces.

Australia has a growing concern over a possible major war on the Korean Peninsula. In such a war, North Korea would use its large ballistic missile force against airbases, naval ports, military facilities and general civilian infrastructure across South Korea and Japan.

Any ADF units deployed to the region under our US-alliance or 1953 Korean War armistice treaty obligations would probably come under ballistic missile attack. Such a conflict could also potentially see North Korea launching intercontinental ballistic missiles against mainland Australia albeit this is unlikely. Although, North Korea is not the only BMD concern. China has also built a large ballistic missile force. Non-nuclear, conventionally armed Chinese missiles are becoming progressively longer-ranged.

Many ADF activities across South East Asia now fall within their coverage. Moreover, with Chinese island building in the South China Sea, China’s rocket forces have gained possible new launch sites considerably closer to Australia. Northern Australia, in particular, is now within range of some of the new Chinese ballistic missiles if these were ever deployed to the South China Sea’s man-made islands.

Ideally, BMD would involve attacks on missiles before they are launched as well as targeting those missiles while in flight. Attacking ballistic missiles before launch, however, is difficult to achieve as they are often mobile, readily hidden, or fired from areas so distant that pre-launch attacks are would be problematic. In this article BMD focuses on destroying ballistic missiles in flight.

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