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Australia unveils A$1B plan to develop own guided missiles

HMAS Hobart launching an SM-2 missile during RIMPAC
Illustration: Royal Australian Navy photo of destroyer HMAS Hobart launching an SM-2 missile off the coast of Hawaii in 2020.

The Australian government is speeding up the establishment of a A$1 billion “sovereign guided weapons enterprise,” and will now select an industry major to operate a weapons manufacturing capability on behalf of the government.

The new enterprise will support missile and guided weapons manufacturing for use across the Australian Defence Force.

Australian news outlets have already reported that Raytheon Australia, Lockheed Martin Australia, Konsberg and BAE Systems Australia were among the contenders for the enterprise undertaking.

The Wednesday announcement comes two months after the government pledged A$1 billion of investments into the modernization of Australian Navy’s guided weapons systems. These would include continued investment in the Evolved SeaSparrow Block 2 missile program, and the start of investment in developing the Standard Missile 2 Block IIIC and the Standard Missile 6 Block 1, to meet Australia’s surface-to-air missile capability requirements.

The establishment of the guided missile enterprise will be overseen by the Chief of Joint Capabilities (CJC) Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead, who will serve as the capability manager for the enterprise.

“Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe, while also providing thousands of local jobs in businesses right across the defense supply chain,” Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said on March 31.

“It’s an imperative we now proceed with the creation of a sovereign guided weapons capability as a priority, accelerating this process following the idea first being explored in the Force Structure Plan.”

Defense minister Peter Dutton said that the government would use a “smart buyer” process to select an experienced strategic industry partner to build a sovereign capability to manufacture a suite of precision weapons that will meet Australia’s growing needs and provide export opportunities as a second source of supply.

“The manufacturing and supply of weapons in Australia will not only benefit and enhance our ADF operational capacity but will ensure we have adequate supply of weapon stock holdings to sustain combat operations if global supply chains are disrupted,” Minister Dutton added.

“We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia’s needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner.”