The US State Department has provisionally approved the sale of more than 200 Tomahawk missiles to Australia.
The United States said the sale of the arms was “vital” for both countries in ensuring Australia maintained a “strong and ready self-defence capability”.
As part of the potential deal, the Australian Defence Force will acquire up to 200 Tomahawk Block V and up to 20 Tomahawk Block IV missiles.
The package will also include unscheduled missile maintenance, the provision of spares, training, in-service support, equipment, engineering and technical expertise and other related elements of logistical and program support.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which has notified Congress of the approval of the sale, said the acquisition of Tomahawk missiles would improve Australia’s ability to “interoperate with U.S. maritime forces”.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. 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,” the statement said.
“By deploying the Tomahawk Weapon System, Australia will contribute to global readiness and enhance the capability of U.S. Forces operating alongside them globally.
“Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”
The significant arms sale of the key long-range subsonic cruise missile will still need final approval but is expected to cost the Australian taxpayer more than $1.3 billion.
US Representatives are expected to travel to Australia during the sale and delivery period to provide “supply support management, inventory control, and equipment familiarisation”.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said enhanced missile capabilities were “really important” to Australia’s defence posture and ability to “project” force in the region.
“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,” Mr Marles told Today on Friday.
“It enables us to be able to reach out beyond our shores further and that’s ultimately how we are able to keep Australia safe.”
Former deputy prime minister and shadow veterans’ affairs minister Barnaby Joyce hailed the likely acquisition of Tomahawks which he said would give “real potency” to Australia’s defence capabilities.
Mr Joyce also argued the package, alongside the AUKUS alliance, showed the United States understood Australia required a “sense of security”.
“I think the Americans of both sides of the aisle, understand the circumstances of the world as we find it now and so do we,” Mr Joyce told Sky News Australia’s Pete Stefanovic on Friday.
“And this is a great endorsement that AUKUS is not just about submarines, it is about a whole range of platforms and interoperability between major forces that most definitely have the capacity to bring a sense of security to Australia which we wish was not the case.
“But unfortunately circumstances we find before us require us to do precisely this.”
The approved sale of Tomahawk missiles is the second major defence acquisition in days after the announcement that Australia would secure up to eight nuclear-propelled submarines through the AUKUS arrangement at a cost of up to $364 billion.
News Source: www.skynews.com.au