Australia confirms long-range missile procurements

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Several new types of air and surface-launched long-range strike missiles will be acquired by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for use by the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy, according to a statement released today by the Commonwealth Government.

The Australian Defense Force (ADF) confirmed on September 16 that it would acquire the Raytheon RGM-109 Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM) to equip the Royal Australian Navy’s three Hobart class destroyers. Launched with the assistance of a rocket booster from the Hobart class’s Mk41 vertical tubes or a dedicated deck-mounted canister launcher, the jet-powered TLAM is capable of striking fixed or naval targets at ranges of up to 1,600km.

The possibility of acquiring a long-range strike missile was raised in the 2020 Defence Strategy Update and accompanying Force Structure Plan, and it was reiterated in a statement by then Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds in January 2021.

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Hobart-class destroyer launching missile from VLS

AGM-158B Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile with Extended Range (JASSM-ER), developed by Lockheed Martin and currently in service with the Royal Australian Air Force on the F/A-18A/B classic Hornet, was also announced as part of the announcement.

Curiously, the announcement states that the JASSM-ER will equip the RAAF’s “F/A-18A/B Hornets and, in the future, our F-35A Lightning II,” despite the fact that the final classic Hornet squadron is scheduled to retire its jets in favor of the F-35A by the end of this year.

The purchase of the AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile Extended Range (LRASM-ER) to equip the Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18F Super Hornets for the maritime strike role was also confirmed. Earlier this year, Australia was given the green light to purchase the LRASM. In February 2020, a contract for the sale of LRASMs to an unnamed foreign military sales (FMS) customer under a sole-source acquisition contract was signed.

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JASSM-ER

The JASSM-ER – which shares a common airframe mould line with the JASSM and LRASM – cannot be carried internally in the F-35’s weapons bay, and trials have not yet been conducted for external carriage and release from the aircraft’s wing pylons. However, the JASSM-ER can be carried externally in the aircraft’s weapons bay. The LRASM has been cleared for the F/A-18F, but the JASSM-ER has not been cleared because it is currently only in use by the United States Air Force.

According to the press release, these acquisitions will “improve the ADF’s ability to deliver strike effects across our air, land, and maritime domains.”

There has been no indication of when the new systems will be put into service, although the LRASM acquisition is likely to be the most advanced because it has already been approved and contracted, and there is little to no integration and clearance work left to be done on the system.

Check out Naval Library App to find out the specifications of the Tomahawk missiles.

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