Australia approves $2.6 billion missile upgrade to counter China and will help AUKUS develop hypersonic missiles

The plan – which will dramatically increase the range of missiles on Australian warships and fighter jets – comes as Australia said it would participate in hypersonic missile development with the US and UK in under the AUKUS agreement that the three countries signed last year. build nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra.

“When you see what is happening in Ukraine, when you see the potential for conflict in the Indo-Pacific, it is very real for us now and we have to be realistic about how we are going to deter any acts of aggression. and to help keep the peace in our own region,” Defense Minister Peter Dutton said of the Navy and Air Force missiles in an interview with Sky News on Tuesday.

A press release from Dutton’s office said Canberra would accelerate its acquisition of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) Extended Range for use on its F/A-18 and possibly F-35A fighter jets, the Naval Strike Missile for its frigates and destroyers, and naval mines to protect its ports and sea approaches.

The new missiles are expected to be operational by 2024, according to the Defense Ministry statement.

With the JASSM Extended Range – an American-designed air-launched cruise missile with stealth characteristics and the ability to make course corrections in flight – Australian fighter jets could engage targets at a range of 900 kilometers (560 miles). ), Dutton said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian-designed naval strike missile is a maneuverable sea-shave weapon that can hit targets at a range of 185 kilometers (115 miles) – more than double the current range of missiles on Australian ships. , according to the press release.

“Our ADF (Australian Defense Force) must be able to contain potential enemy forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance,” Dutton said.

Both missiles are used by the US military, and Dutton said integrating them into Australian forces would help Canberra contribute to coalition operations in the Pacific.

China fears

Australia’s defense minister said increased Chinese military activity in the Indo-Pacific was behind Canberra’s upgraded missile programme.

“We are frankly very concerned” about Chinese militarization of South China Sea islands and increased Chinese naval presence near Japanese waters in the East China Sea, Dutton told Sky News.

“We don’t want to see any intimidation from China, we don’t want to see any aggression against Taiwan,” he said, speaking of the democratically-ruled island that China claims as its sovereign territory and has sworn to regain control.

Dutton last month criticized a proposed Chinese security agreement with the Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia in the Coral Sea, as opening up the possibility for Beijing to expand its military presence in the region. The Solomon Islands denied that any deal would lead to a Chinese military base there.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Canberra and its partners in London and Washington were the ones stoking tensions in the region.

“The trilateral security partnership between the United States and Australia is an old trick of the Anglo-Saxon clique, which cannot eliminate the Cold War mentality and bloc politics, causing military confrontation and launching knives on others,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

hypersonic missiles

Wang was reacting specifically to Australia’s announcement on Tuesday that it would help develop hypersonic missiles and underwater drones in conjunction with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Wang said Australia and its partners were stepping up the arms race in the region, adding that “Asia-Pacific countries should be on high alert.”

Hypersonic missiles are weapons that can fly five times faster than the speed of sound. While almost all ballistic missiles achieve this speed or more, newer hypersonic ones and those under development are maneuverable and able to evade missile defense systems.

China, Russia, North Korea and the United States claim to have tested this new variety of hypersonic missiles.

A statement from AUKUS gave no timeline or details on the development of the missiles.

But for underwater drones, he said trials would take place in the near future.

“Our nations are collaborating on autonomous underwater vehicles, which will be a significant force multiplier for our maritime forces. The first trials and trials of this capability are planned for 2023,” said the joint statement from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and of British Prime Minister Boris. Johnson and US President Joe Biden.

What to know about the hypersonic missiles fired by Russia at Ukraine
In this statement, AUKUS leaders stressed that the current war in Ukraine highlights the importance of their partnership.

“The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and more broadly to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes without coercion – a commitment which the importance has only grown in response to Russia’s unprovoked, unwarranted and illegal invasion of Ukraine,” the statement said.

In addition to hypersonic and submarine drones, AUKUS executives noted progress on the plan to equip the Australian Navy with nuclear-powered submarines, including technology transfers to Canberra, the development of a hand- working to build the submarines in Australia and establishing a base for them.

No timeframe was given for the eventual delivery of the submarines, with the statement saying the plan was to deliver them to Australia “as soon as possible”.

CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


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