US Missiles Could Be Manufactured in Australia
U.S. Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launches a rocket into the air at a U.S. troops’ exercise ground near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Korea on April 9 during the US artillery battalion’s annual exercise for defence against possible attack by North Korean troops. (Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images)
Australia could become integral to U.S. national security supply chains after it was announced that the pacific nation is looking to establish a domestic missile industry that would support the U.S. and Australian defence forces.
At a press conference in Washington D.C, Australian Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy told reporters that Australia had contracted two of the dominant missile producers in the U.S. defence industry, Lockheed Martin Australia and Raytheon Australia, to see what opportunities Australia has to manufacture missiles or missile parts for both countries.
“This is a really important enterprise,” Conroy said. “The lessons from the Ukraine war are that we use missile stocks or all munitions, but particularly guided weapons, very fast in a conflict,” he said.
“That’s why the guided weapons enterprise is a multibillion-dollar exercise to develop that, and I’m confident that at the end of this process, we will have a much more sovereign capability to manufacture and upgrade missiles which are so important.”
Conroy stated that in terms of domestic military capabilities, Australia required a larger stockpile than it currently possessed.
“Quite frankly, we need more missiles in Australia, both as a stock and also the ability to maintain, repair, and upgrade those missiles,” he said.
The comments from Conroy were echoed by Lockheed Martin’s global number two executive, Frank St John, who told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) on Oct. 17 that the world strategic environment was rapidly deteriorating, leading military and defence contractors to focus on building up their existing platforms and maximising their performance.
“Given the urgency of the threat environment that we are facing, I think building capacity with the systems we have and finding ways to integrate those systems to create new capabilities and effect is more pragmatic at this point than a development of a new thing that might not be fielded for 10 years,” he told AFR.
“As much as we would like to develop new things, we have to have practical and open and pragmatic with customers about what meets your urgent needs now.”
Manufacturing Mobile Rocket Systems in Australia
Lockheed Martin has also opened talks with the Australian government to manufacture Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) in Australia after the company faced production delays and supply change issues.
MLRSs are a highly mobile heavy tracked automatic missile launcher that fires surface-to-surface rockets from launcher weapons platforms. The three-man crew can fire the weapons in less than one minute and launch up to 12 Guided MLRS (GMLRS) or Extended Range GMLRS rockets, four Precision Strike Missiles or two Army Tactical Missile Systems. It is also transportable via C-17 and C-5 aircraft.
“Our supply chain in the U.S. is stressed in a lot of critical areas like propulsion and explosives, so we want to expand the supply chain to include Australian industry,” St John told AFR.
This is critical for the company which the U.S. military has contracted to recapitalise and refurbish 94 of the U.S. army’s existing MLRS systems.
The contracts, worth more than $586 million (A$986 million), will overhaul and upgrade the M270 MLRS as “zero-time” launchers with brand new engines, improved armoured cabs and the new Common Fire Control System, which will provide compatibility with future MLRS Family of Munitions.
The launcher’s improved armoured cabs significantly expand the interior volume and incorporate new energy-absorbing seats that provide additional protection from mine blasts and improvised explosive devices. Lockheed Martin will also upgrade the fire control panel and fire control system.