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Looking ahead: Predictions for 2024

If 2023 is anything to go by, 2024 is shaping up to be a cracker, both at home and abroad. So what can we expect, and what are some of our predictions for the new year in defence, national security, and geopolitics?

If 2023 is anything to go by, 2024 is shaping up to be a cracker, both at home and abroad. So what can we expect, and what are some of our predictions for the new year in defence, national security, and geopolitics?

Looking back on the year that has been 2023, it has been both an exciting and frustrating time for Australia’s defence, national security, and geopolitical policy community.

The release of the Albanese government’s Defence Strategic Review in late April set the tone for year, with a major reorientation of our strategic posture, orientation and focus with the government’s emphasis on the concepts of “impactful projection” and “national defence” as the central pillars of the review.


Australia also learnt the “optimal pathway” to developing the in-country skills, infrastructure and workforce to build, operate and maintain a fleet of nuclear-powered, conventionally armed attack submarines as part of the trilateral AUKUS agreement and more meat on the bones for AUKUS Pillar II.

We saw a scaling back of long-promised, major modernisation programs like the LAND 400 Phase 3 program won by Hanwha from 450 vehicles to approximately 129 vehicles, a scaling back of the Army’s self-propelled howitzers under LAND 8116, with an acceleration of programs like the acquisition of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) capability and Army’s littoral manoeuvre vessels.

The Navy didn’t escape the changes outlined by the government’s Defence Strategic Review, but we’re still waiting with bated breath for the findings and the government’s response to the independent review into the make up of the surface fleet, which has been the source of much debate throughout the year.

Finally, the Air Force saw no major capability changes announced beyond some minor organisational changes, with Space Command being relocated to the Joint Capabilities Group and some “known knowns” in the form of announcements for JP9102 Phase 1.

Globally, it has been a bit of a mixed bag as well. Russia has continued its slow, grinding war against Ukraine, Israel fell prey to a daring, destructive raid by Hamas, and the world’s maritime security, particularly in the Middle East and around the Horn of Africa, has come under assault, all while Beijing has ratcheted up tensions in the South China Sea and the Strait of Taiwan.

So, what do we think 2024 will hold? Well, we asked our senior analyst, Steve Kuper, what he thought we could expect for 2024.

Defence Connect: Steve, the DSR was initially met with jubilation and excitement from the industry and the policy community; however, as the year progressed, the mood soured. How would you rate the delivery to date?

Steve Kuper: There definitely was a lot of excitement and anticipation leading up to the release of the DSR. The government did a great job of building up the hype leading up to the release, so job well done in that regard.

It has been interesting seeing the response of the industry, in particular, shift, and understandably so, particular elements of the government’s rhetoric around “short sharp” follow on reviews and snappy decision making hasn’t necessarily borne out.

In saying that, the government has made some progress in terms of getting the ball rolling on programs like JP9102, LAND 400 Phase 3, and LAND 8710, but there is still a lot to be done, so 2024 will no doubt be a busy year on that front.

Defence Connect: You say there has been some progress; what do you think we will see more of in 2024?

Steve Kuper: I am expecting that we will see an acceleration of decision making, particularly as it comes to major naval shipbuilding programs, once we have the long-awaited surface fleet review expected in Q1.

I am also expecting to see a rapid acceleration of the acquisition of stockpiles of guided munitions from the United States and Norway, as well as a reorientation of the GWEO program to begin transferring the technology and skills to begin in-country deep-maintenance and certification of guided munitions.

This acceleration will also extend to our nuclear submarine workforce. I am expecting major progress on both the Navy and the industry side for AUKUS.

Defence Connect: There has been a lot of emphasis on major naval shipbuilding programs over the year. What do you think the outcome of the surface fleet review will deliver?

Steve Kuper: I think we will see a scaling back of the “standard Hunter” class frigates under SEA 5000 from nine to six hulls with a second block of six of BAE’s recently revealed “up-gunned” Hunter to be delivered alongside, in a three-on-three off drum beat, thus avoiding the potentiality of any valley of death.

I am expecting to see the Arafura Class scaled back massively, from the planned 12 to six hulls, with the government to select a smaller corvette-sized vessel to make up the shortfall.

Defence Connect: The Army and Air Force have kind of been overlooked in our conversation. What do you expect to see for them?

Steve Kuper: Army is an interesting one because they’re going to undergo some major restructuring in order to emphasise the littoral domain and the long-range fires, so watch this space; it will be interesting to see how the reorganisation progresses and we see the Boxer CRVs integrated into the force, alongside HIMARS and the new Abrams planned, Apache, Black Hawks and the Redback IFVs.

Air Force is a bit of a mixed bag. The DSR really didn’t make any major announcements for the Air Force, which is disappointing. I would have liked to have seen a commitment to the remaining F-35As we have an option on. I equally would have liked to have seen a commitment to an armed drone program, a further commitment to the MQ-28A Ghost Bat and a commitment option to at least a squadron of B-21 Raiders to be accounted for.

Alas, that didn’t happen. In saying that, we do have to look forward to the first flight of Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton as a major milestone for next year!

Defence Connect: Last question, the geopolitical and strategic situation has devolved rapidly this year, what are you expecting for 2024?

Steve Kuper: Devolved rapidly is an understatement; it definitely isn’t looking like it is going to get any better, that is for sure.

I am expecting circumstances in the Middle East, particularly around the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf, to deteriorate rapidly, particularly if the Houthis continue to have success in striking and capturing maritime trade; this will have a major impact on the global economy.

If the US and its partners already committed to securing the maritime trade do get into a “shooting war” with the Houthis, it has the potential to spiral out of control very, very quickly, particularly given the Iranians continue their support and the Saudis among other regional nations have been very clear in their position of non-alignment, hardly a good position or an indictment of the US position and global order.

In terms of the Russia-Ukraine War, I am expecting there to be a de facto Russian victory by the European spring as Ukraine continues to expend men and munitions it can no longer reliably resupply or replace, with a ceasefire to be signed towards the end of 2024, if not early 2025.

Meanwhile, Putin’s Russia has seen record economic growth and a solidifying of the parallel world economic, political and strategic bloc, spearheaded by Russia and China.

Closer to home, I am expecting increasing Chinese antagonism and brinkmanship in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, particularly around the time of the Taiwanese and US general elections, respectively. My concern here is that there is an accident or miscalculation that results in a crisis and/or confrontation, and that is the ball game.

Not exactly an optimistic view of things globally, but I am trying to be realistic.

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific region and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of partisan and bipartisan agenda setting in the comments section below, or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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