The U.S. Government has confirmed it will sell Australia up to 220 advanced missiles.
The Tomahawk cruise missiles would be made by defence manufacturing company Raytheon and are expected to cost Australia at least $1.3 billion.
It follows an announcement earlier this week that Australia will build nuclear submarines using advanced U.S. technology.
Australia, the UK and the U.S. signed an agreement in 2021 to collaborate on defence technology (called ‘AUKUS‘).
The centrepiece of this agreement was that Australia would acquire nuclear-powered submarines, which can remain underwater for longer than conventional submarines and are harder to detect.
The details were announced earlier this week. Australia will purchase some submarines from the U.S. and build some of its own, costing up to $368 billion over the next 30 years.
The U.S. has used advanced Tomahawk missiles for several decades. The latest version of the missiles can hit small targets with precision over a thousand kilometres away. They can ‘loiter’ and change course mid-flight.
The U.S. nuclear submarines Australia will purchase can carry Tomahawks. Australian Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said this morning the missiles would give Australia “the ability to strike opponents as far away as possible from the Australian mainland”.
The missile announcement comes amid intense debate about the AUKUS submarine purchase. China has been highly critical of the move. It accused the three AUKUS countries of going “further down the wrong and dangerous path.”
Two former Australian Prime Ministers criticised the plan.
Paul Keating called it the “worst deal in all [of] history” and criticised the Government for provoking China and aligning itself too closely with U.S. interests.
Malcolm Turnbull supports the acquisition of submarines. He has argued, however, that Australia should instead stick to a previous agreement to purchase them from France.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended the decision, saying it’s in Australia’s “national interest”.
He said Australia’s relationship with China was “improving” and the two countries would continue to “cooperate where we can [and] disagree where we must”.
The Government says the submarines will “deter” conflict and “add to stability and security in our region”.