The missiles will be produced indigenously as the Albanese Government secures US technical knowledge to foster a sovereign defence industry.
Australia will begin the production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles in 2025, according to a Government statement from 16 January 2024.
Under a A$37.4m ($24.68m) contract, Lockheed Martin Australia will produce the first batch of missiles in the Commonwealth – a step toward the Albanese Government’s commitment to fostering a sovereign defence industry outlined in the Defence Strategic Review.
Critically, this contract also facilitates the transfer of technical data from the US to establish processes for engineering certification and begin to build the technical skills of an Australian workforce.
The leading intelligence consultancy GlobalData notes two key drivers behind Australia’s defence strategy: new platform acquisitions and the ability to build them indigenously.
Strategic priorities are focusing on deterring potential conflict with China, a greater military power, in the immediate region of the Indo-Pacific. Future investment in hypersonic research and a ballistic missile defence will enable long-distance deterrence.
Regrettably, the Australian defence manufacturing industry lacks the specific technical expertise needed for jobs, which creates a barrier for the development of the defence sector in areas such as naval shipbuilding and cyber security. For that reason, the Government largely relies on significant industrial support from other such as the US and the UK within the AUKUS agreement, besides other ad hoc instances.
The GMLRS belongs to the MLRS family of munitions developed by Lockheed Martin. The missile is a readily deployable, surface-to-surface, precision-guided rocket that has a length of 3.93 metres (m) and width of 0.22m. It is also compatible with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) air defence launchers, which reach distances exceeding 70 kilometres.
Australia’s Defence Forces do not currently operate the HIMARS system, although the Government has planned to procure the system in a deal worth $134.1m over the next ten years, according to GlobalData intelligence.
“These are important milestones that will see Australia gain the technology we need to establish a sovereign industry, providing opportunities for a highly skilled workforce,” he said.
The Government will also acquire precision strike missiles (PrSM), which can engage targets out to 500km. PrSM and GMLRS missiles can be fired from HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system) launchers.