Canberra is making progress in its planned acquisition of long-range-strike capabilities to meet the recommendations of the 2023 Defence Strategic Review.
In August 2023, the Australian government announced several developments regarding its long-range-strike aspirations, bringing the country closer to realising a goal listed in its 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2023 Defence Strategic Review.
Notably, Canberra announced a AU$1.3 billion (US$842 million) purchase of 200 Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles (TLAMs) to be deployed aboard Australia’s three Hobart-class destroyers. With a range of 1,600 kilometres, Tomahawk will provide the Australian Defence Forces with a longer-range land-attack cruise missile than is currently available through the Royal Australian Air Force’s AGM-158A JASSM air-launched land-attack cruise missile.
Australia first outlined plans to procure Tomahawk with the signing of the AUKUS trilateral partnership in September 2021. In March 2023. the United States Department of State approved the possible Foreign Military Sale of up to 200 Block V and up to 20 Block IV TLAMs and their associated targeting system. If the sale is completed, Australia will become the third state to operate TLAMs alongside the US and the United Kingdom.
Washington has previously refused requests to export Tomahawk, in part because its sale would set an undesirable precedent for other potential exporters who produce similar missile technology. Under Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines, the transfer of guided weaponry that can carry a payload greater than 500 kilograms beyond 300 km is subject to a strong presumption of denial.
Also in August, Australia announced it would double its planned purchases of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers to 42, for a total of AU$1.6bn (US$1.0bn). The Australian Defence Force also set out plans to acquire the Lockheed Martin-designed Precision Strike Missile, a short-range ballistic missile developed in partnership with Australia.
The United States’ February 2023 revision of the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy reaffirms that its missile exports will continue to be consistent with other export-control regulations, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime. The revision, however, and the sale of TLAMs to Australia, indicates that Washington is following a policy of ‘conditional proliferation’ to achieve its security objectives in light of China’s assertive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific and Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
This article is part of a series from the Missile Dialogue Initiative (MDI) focusing on selected missile and arms-control developments. The MDI aims to strengthen international discussion and promote a high-level exchange of views on missile technologies and related international-security dynamics.