The Australian government is expediting its plan to acquire long-range strike missiles amid growing threats from Russia and China.
According to Defence Minister Peter Dutton, the new missiles will be integrated into the country’s jet fighters and warships to improve Australia’s deterrence against potential adversaries.
The accelerated procurement of long-range missile systems will reportedly cost 3.5 billion Australian dollars ($2.6 billion).
“There was a working assumption that an act of aggression by China toward Taiwan might take place in the 2040s,” Dutton was quoted as saying. “I think that timeline now has been dramatically compressed.”
Changes in Timetable
The revised procurement plan indicates that the country’s FA-18F Super Hornet fighter jets will have the upgraded Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM– ER) by 2024, three years ahead of the original schedule.
The missile system would reportedly enable combat jets to engage targets at up to 900 kilometers (560 miles).
The nation’s ANZAC-class frigates and Hobart-class destroyers would also be armed with Norwegian-made Kongsberg NSM missiles by 2024, five years earlier than planned.
The Kongsberg NSM missiles are expected to more than double the strike range of Australian warships.
Increasing Russian, Chinese Threats
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Dutton claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin could also order its troops to attack other European countries such as Poland.
“That would be a repeat of the 1930s (beginning of World War II) and that’s not something that we should allow to happen,” he said.
According to US Pacific Fleet Commander Samuel Paparo, the recently drafted security pact between the Solomon Islands and China also poses alarming concerns for both Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement reportedly would allow China to send military personnel to the South Pacific islands. It could also allow Chinese warships to dock in the Solomons to replenish supplies.
This has led to speculation that the Chinese government would soon build a naval base on the island.
“There is no justification for China establishing a military presence in the Solomon Islands,” politics professor Anne-Marie Brady told National Public Radio. “It is meant to cut off Australia and New Zealand from US military support. It is both an immediate and long-term threat.”