Late last year in Australia, there was sudden interest shown in ballistic missile defence (BMD). Although the driver was North Korea’s missile testing, the real issue is China.

China’s latest ballistic missiles, combined with its new island bases, are steadily undercutting Australia’s ability to defend itself without relying on foreign combat forces. Our four decadeslong defence policy of self-reliance is in danger. China is altering the local strategic balance, and Australia’s defence force structure may need to change in response.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force is the world’s largest, with some 2000 ballistic missiles available for attacking well-defended land and maritime targets. Many are solid-fuelled missiles with road-mobile launchers, able to be readily transported by ship.

Beijing’s new South China Sea bases are some 2–3 days’ sailing time from the Chinese mainland. Three of the islands are large and include significant airfield and port facilities. As incoming US Pacific Commander Admiral Philip Davidson recently observed:

Today these forward operating bases appear complete. The only thing lacking are the deployed forces. Once occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania.

The main weapons of concern to Australia are the DF-21C/D medium-range and the DF-26 intermediate-range missiles. Both reportedly have land-attack and anti-ship variants.

Please click here to read the full “Australia’s Chinese Ballistic Missile Problem” article published at Real Clear Defence, written by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow, Dr Peter Layton.