The federal government will pour billions of dollars into new defence projects, with Peter Dutton describing the Indo-Pacific as an ‘epicentre of global strategic competition’.
Two announcements for billion-dollar Australian Defence Force (ADF) projects have been made this week: $3.5 billion for improved weapon capabilities; and new strategic partners for the $1 billion Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise.
On Wednesday, the defence minister said in a statement Australia’s maritime approaches needed to be equipped with ‘world-class stroke weapon systems’ to contribute to Coalition operations in the Indo-Pacific region and protect local assets ‘when necessary’.
“With Australia’s strategic environment becoming more complex and challenging, our ADF must be able to hold potential adversary forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance,” Dutton said.
The money for improved ADF weapon capabilities will go to acquiring an Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) for the air force; a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) for the navy; and maritime mines.
“The JASSM-ER will enable the FA-18F Super Hornet, and in future the F-35A Lightning II, to engage targets at a range of 900km,” Dutton said.
The extra gear for the navy’s surface fleet will see the Kongsberg NSM replace the Harpoon anti-ship missile in the ANZAC Class frigates and Hobart Class destroyers. The minister added that the NSM acquisition would mean more than doubling the current maritime strike range of Australian frigates and destroyers.
“The combination of NSM and previously announced Tomahawk Cruise Missiles is the best mix of capability to meet Australia’s needs and is proven in service with our key alliance partner, the United States,” Dutton said.
Announcing strategic partners for the Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise, the minister said working with like-minded countries and industry partners was critical for Australia’s defence.
“We know we need to work closely with our partners to bolster our self-reliance and this is another major step in delivering that sovereign capability here in Australia.”
Three Australian companies have been chosen to support prime industry partners Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia for the $1 billion ordinance project: The Australian Missile Corporation, The Sovereign Missile Alliance and Aurecon Advisory.
“We will be working with [Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia] to rapidly increase our ability to maintain and manufacture guided weapons and their components in Australia,” Dutton said of the two largest suppliers of guided weapons to the ADF.
“Accelerating the guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise will be a whole-of-nation endeavour.
“Our prime industry partners will work with a panel of local Australian-based providers to deliver an array of necessary infrastructure to support this program into the future,” he said.
The federal government recently opened a new $96 million maintenance facility for navy guided weapons at Orchard Hills in Western Sydney.
“We are building new facilities and infrastructure to ensure we get the maximum lethal capability from our current missile stocks today and we are partnering with two of the world’s foremost missile makers to build our own manufacturing base in Australia in the future,” Dutton said.