The ‘echidna’ strategy to defend Australia

The ‘echidna’ strategy to defend Australia: Nation buys ‘potent and powerful’ sea mines to deter China

  • Australia to spend up to $1 billion on high-tech sea mines
  • Smart mines distinguish between civilian and military ships
  • Part of ‘echidna’ strategy that keeps enemies at a distance

Australia will spend $1billion on new high tech sea mines as part of an ‘echidna’ strategy to defend the country.

It’s part of an ongoing splurge to beef up the Australian Defence Force to counter the potential threat of China with its bulging military arsenal.

The Navy started approaching mine manufacturers to show off their wears in 2021 and Defence sources have told the Sydney Morning Herald that a purchase from a European maker will shortly be announced. 

Australia will spend up to $1billion on new sea mines as the nation continues to beef up its military capacity

Australia will spend up to $1billion on new sea mines as the nation continues to beef up its military capacity

‘Defence is accelerating the acquisition of smart sea mines, which will help to secure sea lines of communication and protect Australia’s maritime approaches,’ the department told news organisation.

‘A modern sea mining capability is a significant deterrent to potential aggressors.’

Australia has not invested in sea mines since the 1960s but they have long been a part of naval strategy to deny enemy ships passage through or into strategic waters.

Modern sea mines lie on the ocean floor. They can be laid by ship, submarine or dropped from planes and can be activated or deactivated remotely.

They can use acoustic, magnetic and pressure influences to detect and discriminate between surface ships, distinguish between civilian and military craft or between friendly and hostile ships and submersibles from different fleets. 

Despite their utility and cost effectiveness sea mines are often not seen as a very ‘sexy’ part of naval warfare, according to eminent Australian strategist ANU professor Hugh White.

Sea mines are powerful and potent, but navies are traditionally very reluctant to invest in them,’ Professor White said.

‘There’s no glamour in mines.’

Modern sea mines come in a variety of different forms and can be adapted for various uses in denying an enemy strategic waters

Modern sea mines come in a variety of different forms and can be adapted for various uses in denying an enemy strategic waters

However, Naval strategy expert Greg Mapson applauded the move to acquire sea mines when the navy began seeking expressions of interest from the manufacturers.

‘If there’s one sure way to deter adversary surface and subsurface units from approaching our harbours or using our sea lanes, it’s the laying of minefields,’ he wrote in The Strategist newsletter.

‘Even in periods of tension, mines provide the flexibility to impose a significant deterrent without causing an all-out confrontation.’ 

Australia's decision to buy an arsenal of sea mines has been applauded by naval strategy experts

Australia’s decision to buy an arsenal of sea mines has been applauded by naval strategy experts

With such capabilities are a perfect fit for what Defence Minister Richard Marles has labelled Australia’s ‘echidna’ or porcupine strategy, which would see the country develop enough ‘spiky’ weaponry to keep enemies at a distance.

This strategy reflects the success of so-called ‘asymmetric weapons’ in the Ukraine war where precision drones and missiles have taken out much larger tanks and and other weapons. 

As part of this push it was announced in January that Defence is buying 20 land-based ‘god of war’ High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which launch surface-to-surface precision guided missiles that can strike an enemy 300km away. 

Australia is also buying 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) here seen being used during combat exercises at the Yakima Training Center, in the US state of Washington

Australia is also buying 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) here seen being used during combat exercises at the Yakima Training Center, in the US state of Washington

It has also been announced the navy will be replacing their aging Harpoon missiles.

This all comes on the back of the major AUKUS agreement signed in 2021, which as part of a defence pact with the US and Britain will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. 

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