The government has unveiled a new $3.5 billion plan to accelerate the delivery of long-range missiles and has selected major defence contractors to lead the $1 billion sovereign guided weapons program.
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Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has announced a $3.5 billion investment in the accelerated delivery of new missile capabilities for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy.
The plan involves the delivery of Lockheed Martin-built Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM-ER) and Kongsberg-built Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) by 2024.
This would mean the 900km range- JASSM-ERs, to be deployed by FA-18F Super Hornets and F-35 Lightning II aircraft, will be received three years ahead of the initial delivery date, while Hobart Class destroyers and Anzac Class frigates (replacing Harpoon anti-ship missiles) will receive NSMs five years ahead of schedule.
The RAN is also expected to acquire new maritime mines three years ahead of schedule, used to secure ports and maritime approaches.
“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,” Minister Dutton said.
“These world-class strike weapon systems will equip our forces to better protect Australia’s maritime approaches and when necessary, contribute to Coalition operations in our region.”
Meanwhile, Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia have been announced as strategic partners for the Commonwealth government’s $1 billion sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise (GWEO).
The global prime contractors will be supported by local cooperatives, including the Australian Missile Corporation, the Sovereign Missile Alliance and Aurecon Advisory.
Minister Dutton confirmed their selection at the opening of a $96 million Navy Guided Weapons Maintenance Facility at the Orchard Hills Defence Establishment in Mulgoa, NSW this morning (Tuesday, 5 April).
“We will be working with them to rapidly increase our ability to maintain and manufacture guided weapons and their components in Australia," he added.
“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.”
The minister was joined by head of Land Systems Division, Major General Andrew Bottrell, CSC and representatives from Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia will now be tasked with addressing gaps outlined in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update by working with local SMEs to create opportunities in advanced manufacturing.
The enterprise ecosystem is expected to support Defence’s inventory of guided weapons and explosive ordnance, while also including:
- education and training;
- test and evaluation;
- maintenance and repair;
- storage and distribution; and
Michael Ward, managing director of Raytheon Australia, welcomed the opportunity to lead the nation’s development of sovereign weapons capability alongside Lockheed Martin Australia.
“Raytheon Australia aims to contribute to this national security endeavour through our access to intellectual property and manufacturing know-how that will provide the foundation for this enterprise, while also growing a niche, local workforce – creating thousands of high-tech Australian jobs over the coming decade.
“Our parent company is the largest manufacturer of guided weapons in the world, and it is our intention to bring that unique capability to Australia.
“This is a great day – propelling our national security on a global scale and enabling Australia to build greater industrial self-reliance and resilience. I congratulate the government and Department of Defence for their efforts to prioritise this decision and acknowledge the critical capability that industry can bring to this enterprise.”
Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand chief executive Warren McDonald AO, CSC, described the GWEO announcement as a “watershed” moment for Australia’s self-reliance and resilience.
“Lockheed Martin Australia is proud to have been selected with Raytheon Australia as the strategic industry partners that will work with other industry enterprise participants to realise the Australian Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise,” he said.
“This is a strategically important and vital national undertaking, and we will respond to the Australian government’s expectations by growing a skilled local workforce and working with Australian small and medium enterprises to build resiliency in supply chains.
“We look forward to working with Raytheon Australia and partnering with the Australian Defence Force and defence industry to fulfil the sovereign defence capabilities that Australia needs to maintain a decisive advantage across all domains.”
James Heading, Lockheed Martin Australia's business development senior manager, missiles and fire control, said the company would invest in designing, building and sustaining a world-class sovereign weapons capability.
“Together with our industry partners we are identifying Australian supply chain opportunities that further strengthen Australia’s sovereign defence industrial base,” he said.
“This decision will support advanced manufacturing, engineering and technology jobs and will provide significant opportunities for Australian small and medium enterprises.
“These programs will also provide opportunities for Australian innovation and technology contributions to future upgrades in areas such as sensors, warheads and extended missile ranges.”
[Related: Australia’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian project axed]