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Australia selects partners for weapons enterprise, accelerates missile procurements

Data from Janes Markets Forecast shows the value of Australian missiles and precision-guided weapons programmes to be approximately USD1.23 billion a year on average between 2022 and 2031. (Janes Markets Forecast)

Australia announced on 5 April that the local subsidiaries of US corporations Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have been selected as ‘strategic partners' in its AUD1 billion (USD752 million) programme to develop a Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) enterprise.

The decision coincided with new plans to accelerate Australia's acquisition of various weapons capabilities for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) at a cost of AUD3.5 billion.

Announcing the GWEO decision, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the two prime contractors will be supported by three Australia-based firms: the Australian Missile Corporation (AMC), the Sovereign Missile Alliance (SMA), and the Aurecon advisory group.

Plans to accelerate weapons procurements will focus on three systems, said Dutton. They are expected to be in service by 2024.

These weapons include Lockheed Martin's AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF); Kongsberg's Naval Strike Missile (NSM) for the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) surface fleet; and maritime mines to secure Australia's ports and maritime approaches.

The JASSM-ER, which has a range of more than 920 km, will be fitted onto the RAAF's F/A-18F Super Hornets and Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters, said Dutton.

The RAAF also previously acquired the AGM-158A JASSM, and in February 2020 the US approved a sale of up to 200 AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs) for the RAAF's Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets. The LRASM has a similar range to the JASSM-ER.

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