Australia’s $1.7bn missile investment, but no local manufacture yet


The federal government will spend more than $1.7 billion in acquiring new, long-range strike missiles and other guided weapons, today announcing the purchase of three types of missiles.

However these are to be imported with local manufacture for only one system to be considered as an ‘option’.

In the case of the smallest of the three contracts worth more than $50 million, Varley Rafael Australia will arm the Australian Army’s Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles with Spike Long-Range 2 anti-tank guided missiles.

This will provide soldiers with the capability to engage with enemy armour at a range of more than five kilometres

VRA is expected to deliver the first Spike missile early next year, with the government announcing the Australian owned and controlled engineering company, the Varley Group would present options to government for domestic manufacturing.

The Defence Strategic Review emphasised the need for Australia to be able to strike targets at longer range, but also emphasised the importance of domestic manufacturing supply chains.

Varley Rafael Australia has been preparing for local manufacture of Spike for some time.

As recently as March, the joint venture company which has manufactured and delivered SIKs (launcher and missile control elements) back into the global RAFAEL supply chain, reaffirmed its commitment to local manufacture.

However today’s announcement shows that this is not yet certain, but remains an ‘option’.

In the case of the other two missiles ordered, these supply chains will be exclusively offshore.

The government will buy more than 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States for the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart Class destroyers, for approximately $1.3 billion.

With a range of 1,500 kilometres, Australia will be only one of three nations to have them, along with the United States and the United Kingdom.

In addition, the government has approved the acquisition of more than 60 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) missiles from the United States for $431 million.

These air to ground missiles are a specialised missile used to target enemy radar systems. They will be operated on the Royal Australian Air Force’s Growler and Super Hornet aircrafts and, in future, on the F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the government was delivering on the recommendations made in the Defence Strategic Review.

Conroy said: “As we enter what many are calling the missile age, these will be vital tools for the Australian Defence Force to do its job of defending Australians.

“We are buying these weapons now to deliver capability quickly – but we are also considering options to manufacture missiles domestically because of the importance of building sovereign Australian defence manufacturing capabilities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said: “The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the importance of having not just war stocks, but a domestic missile manufacturing industry and this announcement will help deliver that.”

Further reading:
Varley Rafael Australia plans local anti-tank missile manufacture
Browse @AuManufacturing’s coverage of Varley Rafael Australia here.

Picture: Defence/LSIS Susan Mossop/HMAS Sydney

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