Exercising to Deter: The Australian Navy’s Experience with Strategic Communication

November 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Lockyer, A. (Macquarie University)

Date: 17 November 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with A/Prof. Adam Lockyer (Associate Professor in Strategic Studies, Macquarie University, Australia) as part of its SMA STRATCOM Academic Alliance Speaker Series.

On August 2, 2022, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, Taiwan, triggering a series of Chinese military activities around the island. These activities presented an opportunity to observe how China and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might conduct a future blockade of Taiwan. Prof. Lockyer argued that China’s public display of these exercises was intentional. China sought to convey a strategic message to nations across the globe that China could implement such a blockade; therefore, Taiwan should be hesitant to take any further actions towards independence. This recent example illustrates how sea power can serve as an incredibly flexible tool and shape the strategic environment as a deterrence strategy. 

Prof. Lockyer laid out four different ways in which a state can use its sea power as part of a wider conventional maritime strategy campaign: a) offensive sea control, which involves seizing sea control in the home of that state’s opponent; b) defensive sea control, which involves competing in that state’s home waters; c) offensive sea denial, which involves the state preventing its opponent from gaining strategic control without achieving control itself; and d) defensive sea denial, which involves convincing the state’s opponent that the state will place its shipping at risk anywhere near the state’s own coastline or maritime approaches. Prof. Lockyer explained that Australia’s maritime deterrence method of choice is defensive sea control due to the nation’s geographical positioning, though some deterrence experts argue that Australia should move more towards a defensive sea denial posture.

To conclude, Prof. Lockyer stated that the Australian case demonstrates how maritime deterrence and exercises used for the purpose of strategic communication are flexible tools in the context of warfighting. These tools allow a single nation to simultaneously talk to multiple actors in multiple ways and to not be limited to a single deterrence strategy, as the nation can respond to diverse, nuanced contingencies across different actors. One can also turn to the Australian way of using maritime deterrence to determine how to respond to various scenarios in the region involving China and Taiwan, in particular. 

Speaker Session Recording

To access a recording of the session, please email Ms. Nicole Omundson (nomundson@nsiteam.com).

Briefing Materials


A/Prof. Adam Lockyer is an Associate Professor in Strategic Studies at Macquarie University and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Sea Power Centre–Australia (the Royal Australian Navy’s think-tank). He held the 2015 Fulbright Scholarship in US-Australian Alliance Studies at Georgetown University. Before joining Macquarie University, A/Prof. Lockyer was a Research Fellow in Defence Studies at the University of New South Wales. He has also held positions at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and was the Lowy Institute’s 2008 Thawley Scholarship in International Security winner. His most recent book is titled: Australian Defence Strategy: Evaluating Alternatives for a Contested Asia (Melbourne University Press, 2017).


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