The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on Friday (March 17) that the US State Department has approved the sale of 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles to Australia, an important US ally in the Indo-Pacific region.
And only a few days ago, Australian Prime Minister Antony Albanese, together with US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announced the “Ocus” agreement detailing plans to build an advanced nuclear-powered submarine for Australia.
According to the agreement, the United States will provide Australia with at least three Virginia-class nuclear submarines, while the United Kingdom will cooperate with Australia to develop a new generation of nuclear submarines for Australia. Meeting the challenges posed by China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region is a major goal of Australia’s huge investment in upgrading its military power.
The Associated Press quoted Australian officials as saying that the Tomahawk cruise missiles Canberra purchased from the United States will be equipped to launch on nuclear-powered submarines. The missiles can also be launched by the Hobart-class destroyers currently in service with the Royal Australian Navy.
The Japanese government also announced last month that in response to the security challenges posed by China and North Korea, it launched a plan to significantly increase the defense budget and spend huge sums of money to purchase 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States. And these missiles will be deployed by 2026.
The 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles purchased by Australia cost US$895 million. The main contractor is Raytheon Missile and Defense Company, which has been included in Beijing’s list of unreliable entities because of its arms sales to Taiwan.
“The proposed arms sales will support U.S. foreign policy and security objectives,” the State Department said in a statement. “Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific.”
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles (Richard Marles) emphasized the importance of Australia’s long-range strike capability in an interview with Australian media.
“Ensuring that we have long-range strike missiles is a very important capability of our country,” Mars told Australia’s Channel Nine. “It allows us to engage targets far from our coastlines, which is ultimately how we keep Australia safe.”
Australian Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy (Pat Conroy) also pointed out that Australia must have long-range strike capabilities.
“We certainly want the Australian Defense Force to have the best possible combat capability, and that includes the ability to strike an adversary as far as possible from mainland Australia,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Cruise missiles are a key piece of that capability, and so are the submarines that launch those missiles.”
The US-UK-Australia nuclear submarine cooperation has caused some international concern because it involves the transfer of nuclear materials from a nuclear-armed country to a non-nuclear country. Some people worry that some countries with bad intentions may use this as an excuse to try their best to evade international nuclear supervision and inspection. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi (Rafael Grossi) has spoken out this week that he will use a “very strict” attitude to monitor the transfer of nuclear material planned by the United States to Australia.
Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating was harshly critical of the US-UK-Australia nuclear submarine cooperation program this week. Due to the high cost of nuclear submarines, Keating called the purchase of nuclear submarines “the worst international decision made by the Australian Labor Party government” in more than 100 years.
Australian officials estimate that building nuclear submarines will cost Australia A$268-368 billion (US$178-245 billion) over the next 30 years.
Australian Prime Minister Albanese emphasized that the Labor Party government has always maintained a high degree of transparency on the cost of building nuclear submarines.
“The assessment that has to be made is, does procuring and building our own nuclear-powered submarines increase our defenses by more than 10 percent? You can bet that’s true,” Albanese told ABC in an interview. “That’s why the deal is well worth it.