The growing threat of conflict in Australia’s own backyard has supercharged the country’s missiles timeline, with long-range strikers to be made on home soil for the first time in 2025.
The Albanese government has signed a $37m contract with United States defence contractor Lockheed Martin to make an initial batch of guided multiple launch rocket system missiles, which are capable of travelling up to 150km when fired from the high mobility artillery rocket system.
The first batch will allow technology transfer and to train up Australian personnel, and forms the first step in the government’s long-term plan for large-scale domestic manufacturing.
Acting Defence Minister Pat Conroy said Australia was living “in the missile age” and needed to keep up with potential adversaries who were investing in “greater and greater long range strike”.
“We are living through the greatest arms race in our region since 1945,” Mr Conroy said,
He also announced Australia would also procure precision strike missiles, which can engage targets out to 500km when fired from the HIMARS.
The move to make missiles at home and buy up more strikers was a vital part of Australia’s long-term defence strategy, and formed a major part of the government’s response to the defence strategic review.
“Our long term goal is to move the Australian army from its current strike range of 40km to 1000km over a number of years,” Mr Conroy said.
“It is a priority of the Albanese government to invest in the defence of our nation and meet the strategic urgency that we face at the current time.”
The initial batch to “prove up capability” will be built by Lockheed Martin employees in western Sydney, where components from the US will be assembled.
The announcement comes just days after Australia got the green light from the Biden administration to purchase $372m in support systems to enable the ADF to operate potent US-made Tomahawk missiles.
Those missiles have a range of more than 1500km.
The US approved the sale of 220 Tomahawks to Australia in March, to the tune of $1.3bn, but there has not yet been an announcement on when they would be delivered or made operational.