Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds have confirmed a major boost to Australia’s long-range strike capabilities as part of the government’s $270 billion investment in future defence capability.
The new investments will be made across the air, maritime and land assets to give the Australian Defence Force more options to protect Australia’s interests and serve as a key component of the government's plan to deter or respond to aggression in the Indo-Pacific, as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.
Prime Minister Morrison said, "The challenges and changing nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests.
"These new capabilities will provide a strong credible deterrent in our region that will help provide the stability and security we need. We are committed to peace and stability in the region, and an open, inclusive, prosperous and sovereign Indo-Pacific."
The government's commitment to this new strategic policy setting is demonstrated with the decision to acquire an advanced maritime strike capability, the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), from the United States Navy (USN), at an estimated cost of around $800 million.
Minister Reynolds said, "It is essential that we have the capabilities that can hold forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance, to influence decision-making of those who may seek to threaten our national interests."
The new missile is a significant upgrade from our current AGM-84 air-launched Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was introduced in the early 1980s, with a range of 124 kilometres. The LRASM has a range in excess of 370 kilometres.
LRASM will initially be used on the F/A-18F Super Hornets and has the flexibility to be integrated onto other Defence aircraft. Training on the weapon system is set to commence in 2021.
LRASM will be another fifth-generation capability added to the Air Force inventory to protect Australia’s maritime region, including our sea lines of communication and helping ensure regional maritime security.
To enhance the strike capability of the ADF across all domains, the government has also put in place plans to invest in:
- Advanced naval strike capabilities, including long-range anti-ship and land strike weapons;
- The acquisition of long-range rocket artillery and missile systems to give the Army an operational strike capability; and
- The development, test and evaluation of high-speed long range strike, including hypersonic weapons.
Over the decade to 2029-30, investment in the acquisition of new capability will grow from $14.4 billion (34 per cent of the budget) to $29.2 billion (40 per cent of the budget).
The government will also consider further force structure adjustments over the medium to longer term, which could involve the introduction of additional, longer-range weapon systems, which will be critical for the ADF to be able to continue to deliver credible deterrent effects.