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US clears missile defense upgrades for Australia’s airlift fleet

Australian C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster
A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster III aircraft at Honiara international airport, Solomon Islands. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

The US State Department has approved the sale of equipment to Australia necessary for the upgrade of missile defense systems aboard its fleet of transport aircraft.

For an estimated $122 million, Australia would be buying large aircraft infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM) component systems required to support an ongoing upgrade of its large air mobility platforms, which include C-17As, KC-30As, and C-130Js.

The requested systems include 27 AN/AAQ 24(V)N LAIRCM, 30 Guardian laser turret assemblies, as well as advanced threat missile warning sensors, and other related items, support and training.

Should a final deal be concluded, the main contractors would be Northrop Grumman and Boeing. Northrop was already responsible for delivering LAIRCM systems for C-130Js under Australia’s AIR 5416 Phase 4B2 project, which provided additional electronic warfare self-protection the aircraft. Australia declared final operational capability (FOC) for the C-130J LAIRCM upgrade in 2019.

“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing modern protection for large air mobility platforms. These countermeasures are crucial to defeating modern threats. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing these articles into its armed forces,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

“The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”