Press Conference, Fleet Base East, Sydney

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The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

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media@defence.gov.au

(02) 6277 7840

General enquiries

minister.conroy@dfat.gov.au

Release content

21 August 2023

SUBJECTS: new missiles for the Australian Defence Force, Tomahawk cruise missiles, cost of HIMARS, increasing Australia’s defence capability.

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY PAT CONROY: Good morning, everyone. I’m Pat Conroy, the Australian Minister for Defence Industry. I’m joined by Air Vice-Marshal Gerry van Leeuwen, Acting Head of the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Group within the Department of Defence.

Well, the government’s made no secret that we live in the missile age. You just have to look at what’s occurring in Ukraine right now to understand that modern conflict is dominated by the power of missiles. And that’s why today’s announcements are so significant.

Today I’m announcing significant upgrades to the capabilities of our missile capabilities for all three services. Today we're announcing an upgraded missile capability for the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Army. That includes $1.3 billion to acquire up to 220 Tomahawk long-range strike missiles for the Royal Australian Navy, $460 million to obtain and acquire the most advanced anti-radar missiles for the Royal Australian Air Force, and we’re also announcing the acquisition of Spike anti-tank missiles for the army as well as $1.6 billion for further high-mobility artillery rocket systems for the Australian Army. All of this increases the missile capability of the Australian Defence Force.

If I can talk about the Tomahawk cruise missiles for a moment, these are long-range strike weapons that have a range of around 1,500 kilometres. We are only the third nation in the world to acquire this advanced capability, and it provides a strong deterrence for the Australian Defence Force against any potential aggressor. This is incredibly important. Only by deterrence can we provide strategic balance in our region and promote peace and stability as well.

Importantly, we are complementing this by our investments in domestic missile manufacturing through the guided weapons and explosive enterprise where we will be manufacturing missiles by the end of 2025 in Australia.

So all these announcements are consistent with the Defence Strategic Review, which recommended significant investment in long-range strike for the Australian Defence Force to place a question mark in any adversary’s eyes, to provide stronger deterrence and promote strategic balance and peace and stability in the region.

I’ll invite Air Vice-Marshal van Leeuwen to make a few comments then we’d be very happy to answer any questions.

AIR VICE MARSHALL GERRY VAN LEEUWEN: Thanks, Minister. Air Vice-Marshal Gerry van Leeuwen, I’m the Acting Chief of the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Group. Today’s announcement represents significant capability enhancements for both our – in fact, for all three services – our navy, army and air force.

The Defence Strategic Review was very clear in its priorities setting out for these Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Group to get after that capability [indistinct] for the joint force, in particular for long-range strike for [indistinct] guided weapons and explosive ordnance inventory and also around domestic manufacture.

Today’s announcement certainly does provide us with [indistinct] inventory in terms of the weapons that we are acquiring, and also our long-range strike capability in terms of Tomahawk missile and [indistinct].

The domestic manufacturing capabilities that we’re working towards, we will go back to government with options by the end of Q2 2024 with plans to commence domestic manufacture by 2025, noting that we already have some domestic manufacturing capability [indistinct] here in Australia. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: So from an historical perspective, in terms of advancements for the Royal Australian Navy since its inception, where do you rank this in terms of a giant leap forward of progression and capability?

GERRY VAN LEEUWEN: Yeah, this is a significant leap forward for the Royal Australian Navy in terms of our deterrence and our long-range strike capability. The Tomahawk is a weapon that is currently used by the UK and the United States and we are the third country as part of the AUKUS partnership to acquireTomahawk. And, of course, once we’ve got that capability it will be part of that evolution of capability [indistinct].

JOURNALIST: What sort of training will be required? I mean, this is an entirely new world for men and women.

GERRY VAN LEEUWEN: There is a significant amount of training, and it’s not just about acquiring the weapons but it’s also about integrating those weapons into our combat management systems and target systems and all the other fundamental inputs to capability, including training required to realise the capability.

JOURNALIST: Could you describe the capabilities in terms of air, land and sea, how portable they are, how transportable they are and what [indistinct]?

GERRY VAN LEEUWEN: So in terms of the Tomahawk missile, obviously that’s being fitted to our Hobart-class destroyers initially with plans to obviously integrate those into nuclear-powered submarines in the future. The AARGM-ER represents significant capability for our FA-18F and EA-18G, so the Super Hornet and Growler aircraft. It’s all around [indistinct] in terms of mission. And, of course, the Spike LR2 is an anti-tank-like missile that will be fitted to our Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles. So it represents good joint force capability across our [indistinct].

JOURNALIST: What’s happened to make this announcement possible today? What’s been the step forward where you can actually make the announcement today?

MINISTER CONROY: Well, the announcement today reflects a decision by the National Security Committee of cabinet to acquire these weapons. This is why we’re announcing today – because the government has decided to acquire these weapons. It’s really important to set the scene for this. We are placing this long-range strike missile, the Tomahawk, one of the most advanced missiles in the world on our most advanced naval vessel – the Air Warfare Destroyer. We are placing the Spike anti‑tank missile on our most advanced army vehicles – the Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle being made in Brisbane right now and eventually on our infantry fighting vehicles that will be made in Geelong. So this is all about complementing our capabilities through strong funding decisions by the Albanese Labor Government.

JOURNALIST: Minister, China has been quite bellicose in the past when AUKUS was announced. Have you had any indication about this from China?

MINISTER CONROY: I haven’t had any communication directly. We’ve been very clear that this is about promoting strategic balance in our region. We’ve been – the DSR was very clear that we faced the biggest military build-up in our region since 1945, and the response from the Albanese Labor Government has to – has been to invest in the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force because ultimately deterrence avoids conflict, deterrence promotes strategic balance in our region. And we complement that by our strong diplomatic efforts, our increasing foreign aid and our international engagement. But we need to do both at the same time.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the budget, where is this money coming from? Do you have it in the kitty already, or are you [indistinct]?

MINISTER CONROY: All the funding for these acquisitions is in the Integrated Investment Program, which is the way we allocate money for the Defence budget to buy weapons systems. Importantly, one of the first decisions of the Albanese Labor Government after the Defence Strategic Review was to allocate $4.1 billion for long-range strike missile manufacturing over the next four years. So that was moved into that part of the Defence budget.

JOURNALIST: Last year’s [indistinct] notice from the US [indistinct] $603 million. The most recent announcement is 1.5 billion. Why is it now two and a half times more expensive?

MINISTER CONROY: That reporting is incorrect. The cost of the high-mobility artillery rocket system launchers – the things that actually fire the rockets and missiles – hasn’t moved. What has changed is that we’re acquiring more rockets ammunition under supporting services. So, for example, instead of getting 30 rocket pods with alternate warheads, we’re getting 60 rocket systems with alternate warheads. So what’s moved is we’re getting more munitions with the second round of orders. So the price is consistent. Those reports are incorrect.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] AUKUS announcement of the subs, [indistinct] we in an arms race and [indistinct] and are we [indistinct]?

MINISTER CONROY: Look, this is about what Australia is doing to increase our defence capability. As I said on the weekend with the Deputy Prime Minister, China, for example, is moving from six nuclear-powered submarines in 2000 to having 21 in six years’ time and moving from 57 major surface vessels to 200 in six years’ time. Australia is investing in our defence capability because ultimately deterrence is how you promote peace and stability in our region. And we’re complementing that with our strong diplomatic efforts. So the important thing is we’re doing both things at the same time – increasing our diplomatic engagement and investing in our Australian Defence Force to preserve peace.

SPEAKER: Last question.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] we’ve got the report that came out from the Army Research Centre that said that basically [indistinct]?

MINISTER CONROY: Look, I’m focused on implementing the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review, which was driven by Sir Angus Houston, former Chief of the Defence Force, and Professor Stephen Smith, a very experienced Defence Minister. They made very strong recommendations on how we could invest in deterrence in our region. And today’s announcement is just another concrete instalment on the Albanese Labor Government’s commitment to defending our country. Thank you very much.

ENDS

 

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