Australia seems to have been on a shopping spree for American defence equipment, with the US State Department advising of seven potential sales so far this year, compared with four in all of 2016 and five in 2015.
The total sales for 2017 exceeded US$2.87 billion, with the largest single item US$1.3 billion for five new General Dynamics Gulfstream G550 aircraft equipped with airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare mission systems.
The most recent announcement was last month, when the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency advised of a proposed sale of 3900 Raytheon GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bombs Increment II (SDB II) at an estimated cost of US$815 million.
SDB is a precision GPS-guided bomb. Its small size allows more to be carried per aircraft. SDB II is the latest development with a tri-mode seeker for radar, infrared homing and semi-active laser guidance again even moving targets.
US law requires State Department approval and notification of Congress of proposed Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of military equipment, with the approvals regularly announced.
These FMS announcements show four approvals in 2016 worth just over US2 billion. The largest single item was a sale of up to 450 AMRAAM missiles plus test and other equipment worth $US$1.22 billion.
In 2015, five FMS sales were announced worth US$2.04 billion. The largest single item was F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft sustainment plus associated equipment, parts and logistical support, worth an estimated US$1.5 billion
2014 featured only three sale announcements, though one was a biggie – four C-17 Globemaster aircraft plus spares and support worth US$1.6 billion. FMS sales to Australia for the year totalled $2.21 billion.
The FMS announcements show Australia is buying new equipment, upgrades to existing equipment plus significant quantities of munitions, both for training and presumably war stocks.
For example, this year Australia purchased more than 14,000 rounds of 120mm practice ammunition for the Army’s M1A1 Abrams tanks, worth US$50 million. Australia also bought 70 AGM-88B High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) and 40 AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGM) worth US$137 million.
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As well as the big buy of AMRAAMs in 2016, Australia also bought almost 3000 SDB Increment I bombs plus 80 SM-2 missiles for training and qualification by the Navy’s new Air Warfare Destroyers.