Australia is a step closer to purchasing up to 220 missiles from the United States, in a deal that could be worth about $1.3b.
The United States’ State Department has approved the potential sale of Tomahawk cruise missiles in what it says is “vital” to help Australia maintain a “strong and ready self-defence capability”.
The Pentagon said the approved package would include up to 220 missiles and technical support in a deal estimated to cost US $895 million, or about AU $1.3bn.
A press release by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the Australian government had requested to buy up to 200 Tomahawk Block V All Up Rounds; and up to 20 Tomahawk IV All Up Rounds.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” the release said.
“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. 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-defence capability.
“Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence.”
The agency said the sale will not have any adverse impact on US defence readiness, nor will it alter the “basic military balance” in the region.
While the deal has been approved by the State Department, no contract has yet been signed nor have negotiations concluded.
It comes just days after the AUKUS deal was finalised, which includes Australia purchasing between three and five US-Virginia class submarines from America while building British designed submarines domestically.
The missiles could be fired by the Virginia-class vessels as well.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australia was working with the US to have more missile capability.
“It is a really important part of what we need to be doing with our posture, which is to have a greater ability to project,” he told the Today show.
“That’s at the heart of what we’re doing with submarines, of course, but making sure we have longer range strike missiles is a really important capability for the country.
“It enables us to reach out beyond our shores further, and that’s ultimately how we are able to keep Australia safe.”
Pressed on whether Australia would purchase all 220, and when they might arrive, Mr Marles said he wasn’t in a position to “go into all of that’.
“We are looking at how we can have greater projection. Longer range strike missiles are a really critical component to it,” he said.
Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said the government was committed to giving the ADF the “best possible capability”.
“This is the government’s agenda, to give the ADF … greater ability to provide long range strike and keep any potential adversary at bay, that is a critical deterrence factor,” he told ABC News.
“This is how we promote peace and stability by putting question marks in any potential adversary’s mind.
“That is why the Tomahawks are important and the nuclear powered submarines are vital.”