Australia is ramping up plans to start manufacturing advanced missiles and other guided weapons in response to growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and concerns over its dependence on imports.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday the government would spend A $ 1 billion (US $ 712 million) to develop manufacturing capacity and seek to select an industrial partner. Raytheon Australia, Lockheed Martin, Kongsberg and BAE Systems are expected to compete to participate in the program.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, having the capacity for self-sufficiency, whether it’s vaccine development or Australia’s defense, is essential to meeting our own needs in an environment changing world, ”said Morrison during a visit to Raytheon in Australia. .
“It is imperative that we now move to building a sovereign directed weapons capability as a priority.”
Canberra said last year it would partner with the United States to develop a generation of hypersonic cruise missiles capable of traveling at five times the speed of sound. China and Russia are develop similar weapons in a deteriorating strategic environment, which has prompted Canberra to rethink its defense priorities.
The government plans to spend A $ 100 billion over the next 20 years on guided weapons, as part of a major defense force investment program. Canberra plans to spend A $ 270 billion on military equipment over the next decade, including a fleet of submarines and frigates.
Michael Shoebridge, defense analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank, said Canberra’s decision to manufacture advanced missiles reflected its concerns about China and China. disruption of global supply chains caused by the pandemic.
“China’s economic coercion policy against Australia has shown its willingness to use trade and the supply chain as weapons,” he said. “And with Covid, we’ve seen ‘vaccine nationalism’ due to supply shortages. In any future crisis, we might see “missile nationalism” as nations scramble to get supplies.
Shoebridge added that Canberra’s strategy is closely aligned with the approach of the Biden administration, which has said it will. cooperate closely with allies on defense. Australia could eventually provide guided missiles to the United States, he said.
Morrison participated in the early leaders’ Quad meeting, a diplomatic and security initiative that involved Australia, the United States, India and Japan, this month. The group is part of a strategy to fight against China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
The Australian Prime Minister said his government presents the possibility of “long-range strikes” using advanced missile technology to deal with the changing threats and security environment.
“I should also point out that this is a capability that also reaches out to our alliance partners, especially the United States,” he said.
Australia’s current guided weapon systems were sourced from American, Israeli and European manufacturers.