Australia's decision to beef up its missiles and munitions substantially to push back against China's regional aggression was greeted enthusiastically by defence analysts on Wednesday, who said the move was urgent.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute director Peter Jennings said the announcement came "just in time" after too much complacency. The big difference between the 2020 and 2016 white papers was urgency, aiming for capability now rather than into the 2030s.
"This is equipping defence with more firepower in the relative short term, so the next 12 to 24 months, and that is significant," he said.
"It's a direct reaction to the deteriorating strategic environment. Almost all of that can be attributed to China's behaviour in terms of cyber attacks, the South China Sea annexation, military movements around all of China's neighbours, political influencing, the gamut of things they've been doing more and more obviously in the last few years."
In deciding to build its own stocks of ammunition and fuel, Australia was clearly worried about the reliability of the US and preparing to engage in a more substantial range of high-end combat operations without American support, he said.
The aim was primarily deterrent.
"We can certainly make it clear that if they came near us with hostile intent we could blow their aircraft out of the skies and the ships out of the water," he said.
"Obviously the aim is to make ourselves a sufficiently attractive target that a potential attacker concludes it's not worth it, and I think we can certainly do that.
"At the end of the day, we are a country of 25 million people and I don't think anyone imagines there's going to be a one-on-one conflict between us and China, but it could certainly be the case that something happens in the South China Sea or over Taiwan that does draw Australia in."
The 200 extra-long-range anti-ship missiles that Australia would buy from the US would "make a mess of anyone's day".
Direct-energy weapons using laser beams to shoot incoming missiles from an Australian warship were also in the mix, along with long-range missiles that the army would operate from deployments in the South-East Asian region, and hypersonic missiles designed to fly at five times the speed of sound, making them difficult to shoot down.
The plan canvassed building "complex munitions" in Australia, which Mr Jennings said was a reference to missiles, with the potential to build many more than the 200 to be bought from the US.
Mr Jennings said the strategy was not to fight on Australian soil but to get as far into the region as possible. But the spend was not enough to buy everything canvassed, which would take 3 to 3.5 per cent of gross national product rather than the 2 per cent outlined.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched the new Defence White Paper on Wednesday at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, saying the Indo-Pacific region had become the epicentre of strategic competition.
"We have not seen the conflation of global, economic and strategic uncertainty now being experienced here in Australia in our region since the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s. That is a sobering thought,"Mr Morrison said, referring to "a lot of tension in the cord and a lot of risk of miscalculation" in the relationship between the US and China.
Former director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation Paul Dibb described Mr Morrison's speech as excellent, saying he was right to highlight the dangerous, disordered and more unpredictable world, and the problem was becoming more urgent.
"The fact is we must be able to defend ourselves possibly against a well-armed adversary," he said, supporting plans for long-range missiles as an important deterrent, sending the message that "if you want to attack us we have the capability to strike back".
"We're talking about being able to defend our sovereignty and our maritime approaches. Long-range missiles are a very good solution," Professor Dibb, now emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, said.
The policy heralded a very significant change in Australia's defence approach, giving Australia not only long-range missiles and the potential for hypersonic missiles, but also new satellite capability and the ability to detect Chinese submarines.
Professor Dibb said China would soon have 70 submarines and he would be surprised if they were not operating in the region.
Australia would also build stockpiles of weapons and fuel, and while self-sufficiency was not possible, greater self-reliance was, he said.
Professor Dibb described China as an increasingly belligerent and aggressive power.
Asked about China's likely reaction, he said, "Who cares frankly. They're bullying us and they're using coercion."
But a former Defence intelligence director Clive Williams, now adjunct professor at the ANU, said it was a new arms race brought about by the failure to monitor arms-control treaties.
The US had now walked away from them, and China had never been in them, leaving it free to take advantage of the constraints on Russia and the US to build up a substantial and competitive intermediate-range missile armoury.
Russia and China were now way ahead of the US in hypersonic missile technology, with the US still in the developmental stage.
China's main missile interest was dominating oceans within intermediate range and deter a US ballistic missile attack.
"Australia needs to be wary of getting sucked in - once again - to a situation that favours US strategic interests but does us no favours," Professor Williams said.
"It would make sense for Russia, China and the US to agree on a comprehensive strategic missile freeze and then to sit down and hammer out a new comprehensive arms control agreement that should be monitored by international inspectors."
Professor Williams said the government should have dumped the submarine program, with the 12 submarines likely to be obsolete by the time they enter service after 2035, and instead should have leased two nuclear-powered submarines, which he believes was the preferred option among Navy officers.
The Defence White Paper said Australia would take greater responsibility for its own security without attempting to match the capability of major powers.
"This includes developing capabilities to hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia, such as longer-range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial systems," it says.
"The prospect of high-intensity conflict in the Indo-Pacific, while still unlikely, is now less remote. The ADF must be better prepared for such conflict if deterrence measures fail, or to support the United States and other partners where Australia's national interests are engaged. This means it is vital that we continue to enhance the lethality and readiness of the ADF."