The Australian government announced it is buying the Lockheed Martin-built Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) under a deal worth an estimated A$800 million.
The announcement was made as part of the country’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan which foresees investments across the air, maritime and land assets to give the Australian Defence Force more options to protect Australia’s interests.
Australia is buying the missiles after the US State Department gave its green light for the purchase in February this year. Back then, the State Department said Australia could buy up to 200 LRASMs and related equipment for an estimated cost of US$990 million. Australia did not provide details on the number of missiles it is buying.
The US Navy’s AGM-158C LRASM is a significant upgrade from Australia’s 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 kilometers.
LRASM will initially be used on the F/A-18F Super Hornets and has the flexibility to be integrated onto other aircraft. Training on the weapon system is set to start in 2021.
“This is the first in a long-term plan to procure advanced longer-range strike weapon systems for our combat aircraft to allow Air Force to operate at greater range and avoid increasingly sophisticated air defenses” the government said in an announcement.
“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,” Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said.
“These new capabilities will provide a strong credible deterrent in our region that will help provide the stability and security we need.”
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. It also plans the acquisition of long-range rocket artillery and missile systems to give the army an operational strike capability.
What is more, the government is planning the development, test and evaluation of high-speed long range strike, including hypersonic weapons.
As outlined by the government, 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) over the next decade.