Antarctica is changing. Not just physically as climate change inexorably impacts but also in how countries and people perceive and act in the world’s last uninhabited continent. More and more states are becoming engaged in Antarctic issues and establishing research bases there.
The scientific endeavours of all the participating Antarctic states use a judicious mix of military and commercial air transport assets. Australia is notable in this use of national air power in Antarctica albeit on a small-scale. Sizeable investments have and are being made to create an effective and efficient air logistic network. In looking to the future however, exciting new possibilities beckon.
This paper initially examines Antarctica today including recent Chinese, Indian and Russian activities in the East Antarctic region that Australia asserts sovereignty over. In the second section, the paper focuses on Australia’s national interests, current air operations and development intentions. The third section looks two decades forward to develop four alternative futures both appropriate to Antarctic air operations and linked to the ADF’s 2035 Future Operating Environment’s alternative futures. The fourth section applies these futures to devise a range of strategic options in terms of potential Australian Antarctic national air power approaches and possible force structure changes.