Australia will provide Ukraine aid shipments with vital protection and deploy one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance aircraft as the ongoing conflict with Russia inches towards its 18th month.
Known in Australia as the E-7A Wedgetail, the aircraft is one of the most advanced battlespace management platforms capable of coordinating a joint air, sea and land battle in real-time and detecting airborne threats, including hostile aircraft and cruise missiles.
Able to be refuelled in-air, it can undertake unlimited long-range missions and can cover more than four million square kilometres, which is roughly the territorial size of the European Union or the state of Western Australia.
Australia is one of only four countries to operate the advanced surveillance plane, having six planes on active duty.
Speaking at a joint press conference on July 10 with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was important that the democratic nations of the world stand up to defend the international rules-based order.
“Australia, of course, is a long way from Europe. But one of the things that this war has done is remind us that in today’s interconnected, globalised world, an event such as the land war in Europe has an impact on the entire world,” Mr. Albanese said.
“We’ve been impacted by our economy, as well as we’ve been shocked by the brutal invasion and the disregard for the international rules-based order, which we had come to think was something that we hoped would be a permanent presence. So it is important that the democratic world react to defend the rules-based order.”
The prime minister said that the deployment will maximise the impact of Australia’s contribution to support Ukraine’s integrity, borders, and sovereignty, and he thanked Germany for hosting the plane.
The deployment of the aircraft will also see up to 100 crew and support personnel travel with it to Germany for six months from October.
However, at no time will the aircraft or the personnel be involved in the Ukraine conflict, with no personnel or military assets entering Ukraine’s territorial boundaries. The aircraft will also operate outside of Russian, Belarussian, and Ukrainian airspace.
German Chancellor Touched By the Contribution
Meanwhile, the German chancellor, Mr. Scholz, said he was touched by Australia’s support to the Ukrainian defence effort.
“I am really moved, and we will fully support this project to manage it well. It’s a very important step and a good one,” Mr. Scholz said.
“We’re doing this together with many other partners in the world. Ukraine needs this support. Because it is, of course, remarkable to see the bravery of the men and women in Ukraine, the army defending its country and the resilience of the entire country.
“But it is also true that without the financial, humanitarian and military support that we make available, it wouldn’t be possible to defend oneself in such a way.”
The deployment comes after Australia announced a multi-million-dollar assistance package for Ukraine in June, which included 70 vehicles, including 28 Rheinmetall armoured trucks, 28 M113 armoured vehicles, 14 special operations vehicles, and artillery ammunition.
This brings Australia’s contribution to $790 million (US$520 million).
NATO Important To Australia
The new aid package for Ukraine comes as Mr. Albanese is in Europe to attend the NATO meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday and Wednesday alongside Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea—also known as the Indo-Pacific Four.
They will discuss security issues across both Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
The trip has sparked controversy in Australia after former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating criticised NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg as a “supreme fool” for his critical stance on China.
However, Mr. Albanese declared on Monday that Australia supported NATO and that Mr. Stoltenberg was a friend of Australia’s.
“We need to remember the role that NATO is playing: there is a land war in Europe,” Mr. Albanese said.
“This is a war about the international rule of law, about whether a large nation can seek to impose its will on a smaller nation. This is about national sovereignty. This is about the people of Ukraine struggling to defend their democracy and their sovereignty.
“And Australia stands with the people and government of Ukraine. But we also support the extraordinary effort that NATO is showing because this is a struggle.”