Australia’s anti-ship missile defence capability is set to be bolstered by a new multi-billion-dollar acquisition.
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Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has announced over $2 billion would be invested in the acquisition of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM Block 2) capability for the Royal Australian Navy.
The ESSM Block 2 advanced surface-to-air missile – to be supplied by BAE Systems Australia, L3 Harris, and G H Varley – is designed to counter anti-ship missile threats.
The weapons leverage an advanced active radar missile seeker, capable of hitting targets at a range in excess of 50 kilometres.
Dutton revealed the first tranche of the missiles has already arrived in Australia for initial integration and testing.
The ESSM Block 2 is expected to be deployed from the RAN’s Surface Combatant Force, which includes the Anzac Class frigates and Hobart Class destroyers.
Local industry stakeholders are tipped to benefit from the deal, providing components and supporting the project from locations in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Newcastle.
According to Minister Dutton, the ESSM Block 2 delivery has been facilitated by Australia’s participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Sea Sparrow Consortium.
“Australia’s participation in the Consortium provides Navy with access to important technical information, strengthens the relationship with NATO and shares the cost associated with developing a very effective capability for defeating anti-ship missiles,” he said.
This latest announcement comes just hours after Anduril Industries, which announced its expansion into Australia earlier this year, revealed it has commenced commercial negotiations with Defence for a co-funded design, development and manufacturing program for extra-large autonomous undersea vehicles (XL-AUVs).
The three-year deal – worth an estimated AU$140 million – is expected to involve capability assessment and prototyping, with three platforms set to be delivered to the Royal Australian Navy over the course of the program.
The Commonwealth government also recently greenlit the purchase of Schiebel S-100 Camcopter drones for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as part of the SEA 129 Phase 5 Block One project.
The order bypasses the tender process for the Maritime Unmanned Aircraft System Continuous Development program, with the Schiebel Pacific platform, supported by Raytheon Australia, selected among alternative offerings proposed by a group of shortlisted candidates, which included BAE Systems Australia, Northrup Grumman Australia, and Insitu Pacific.
In October 2020, Raytheon Australia pledged to set up an Asia-Pacific manufacturing and sustainment hub for S-100 UAS in the Shoalhaven region of NSW.
In a statement, Schiebel Pacific has now confirmed the UAS platforms would be designed, developed, manufactured, integrated and supported locally.