Australia is set to procure US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket (HIMARS) systems, which will improve the country’s long-range strike capability. The system has already received much attention in Ukraine for its ruthless performance against advancing Russian forces.
On January 5, Richard Marles, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense of Australia stated in the announcement that it is crucial for the Australian Defense Force to have cutting-edge, precise military capabilities given the current strategic environment.
Marles avoided mentioning how many systems Australia will purchase. But in May, the US State Department authorized a potential sale of 20 HIMARS and associated equipment to Australia for foreign military purposes at a projected cost of $385 million.
In addition, the country has also signed a deal with the Norwegian company Kongsberg for the supply of naval strike missiles, which will begin to replace the outdated Harpoon anti-ship missiles aboard Hobart-class destroyers and Anzac-class frigates in 2024. But, the number of missiles ordered is a secret.
The total value of the combined deals exceeds $1 billion, although the precise amount is being withheld for security concerns.
The Morrison government announced plans to purchase naval strike missiles in April as part of a $3.5 billion expenditure plan, but Conroy said that the Albanese administration “sped up the acquisition cycle for both” naval missiles and HIMARS.
The Australian announcement followed a HIMARS strike by Ukrainian forces on January 1 that resulted in the deaths of over 80 Russian troops. Australia is proactively defending itself, and according to Marles, “HIMARS launchers will give our Defense Force the ability to deter conflict and protect our interests.”
The defense minister also mentioned that the country is also a part of a developmental program in the US called the precision strike missile, which will allow the Army to strike targets more than 500 kilometers away.
The US Defense Department, which has already delivered 20 HIMARS to Ukraine to assist in combating Russian invaders, announced the dispatch of four additional launchers to Kyiv on October 4.
Australia’s Efforts To Boost Its Military Capabilities
In recent years, Australia has bolstered its military capabilities and alliances in response to worries about China’s quick military modernization in the South China Sea and efforts to sway the South Pacific.
For instance, in September 2021, Australia joined the United States and the United Kingdom in the AUKUS defense pact. HIMARS munitions have a range of up to 186 miles, which is projected to improve with technical advancements, the statement noted.
According to the release, the Lockheed Martin-designed system, which incorporates a radar, will be delivered by the Australian company CEA Technologies. In recent years, US soldiers in the Indo-Pacific have often trained using HIMARS, including during the biennial Talisman Sabre drills in Australia in 2021.
In October 2022, US Marines deployed HIMARS launchers on the largest island of the Philippines, Luzon, and the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido.
In an apparent reference to China, Gen. Angus Campbell, the head of Australia’s defense force, stated that large-scale military modernization is accelerating throughout the region. The US has increased rotations of its forces to Australia and denounced China’s “dangerous and coercive actions” throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
“The naval strike missile is a major step up in capability for our navy’s warships, while HIMARS launchers have been successfully deployed by the Ukrainian military over recent months and are a substantial new capability for the army,” the Australian defense minister said.
The Australian Defense Force will soon have the capabilities it needs for the twenty-first century, Marles added.
According to Paul Buchanan, a US security analyst based in New Zealand, Australian forces would probably utilize the HIMARS in an expeditionary conflict where it would be airlifted into a theater.
He noted that it might be used against ships approaching Australian land positions, though the Australian Navy can intercept hostile ships.
Meanwhile, Former Australian assistant defense secretary Ross Babbage believes that Australian HIMARS will be capable of supporting US Marine Corps littoral regiments protecting islands and coastal areas in the Western Pacific.
Babbage said that this kind of powerful allied support might potentially strengthen the protection and deterrence of regional partners in ways they might not be able to do independently.