Australia Makes Long-Range Missile Acquisitions

By Australian Defence Business Review

The Commonwealth Government has confirmed the ADF will acquire several new types of air and surface-launched long-range strike missiles for the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy.

A September 16 announcement confirmed that the ADF would acquire the Raytheon RGM-109 Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM) to equip the RAN’s three Hobart class destroyers. The jet-powered TLAM is launched with the aid of a rocket booster from the Hobart class’s Mk41 vertical tubes, or a dedicated deck-mounted canister launcher, and can strike fixed or naval targets at ranges of up to 1,600km.

The prospect of a long-range strike missile acquisition was raised in the 2020 Defence Strategy Update and accompanying Force Structure Plan, and was re-stated in January 2021 in a statement by then Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds.

The announcement also revealed the ADF will buy the Lockheed Martin AGM-158B Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER), a longer-range development of the AGM-158A JASSM currently in service with the RAAF on the F/A-18A/B classic Hornet.

Curiously, the announcement says the JASSM-ER will equip the RAAF’s “F/A-18A/B Hornets and in future, our F-35A Lightning II”, although the final classic Hornet squadron is due to retire its jets in favour of the F-35A by the end of this year.

Also confirmed was the acquisition of the AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile Extended range (LRASM-ER) to equip the RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornets for the maritime strike role. Australia was approved to buy the LRASM in February 2020, and a contract for the sale of LRASMs to an unnamed foreign military sales (FMS) customer under a sole-source acquisition contract was signed in February 2021.

The JASSM-ER – which shares a common airframe mould line with the JASSM and LRASM – cannot be carried internally in the F-35’s weapons bay, and trials are yet to be conducted for external carriage and release from the aircraft’s wing pylons. LRASM has been cleared for the F/A-18F, but the JASSM-ER has not as it is currently used only by the USAF.

The release said these acquisitions will “enhance the ADF’s ability to deliver strike effects across our air, land and maritime domains.”

No timings have been provided on the in-service dates of the new systems, although the LRASM acquisition is likely to be the most advanced as it has already been approved and contracted, and there is little to no integration and clearance work to be conducted.

This article was written by Andrew McLaughlin and published by ADBR on September 22, 2021.