Australia has announced a new partnership with the US to develop precision strike missile technology capable of hitting targets at ranges of more than 400km in an effort to bolster Australia’s military capabilities.
In a recent memorandum of understanding between the Australian Army and the US military, the two countries pledge to increase the lethality, range and target engagement of the missile under development.
This strategic move comes as Scott Morrison publicly declared Australia’s unwavering dedication to the US as a military and political ally.
“In Australia, the US has no stronger partner today in defending the values and its institutional pillars of what was created by a remarkable generation of American leaders,” the Prime Minister told the Australian American Leadership Dialogue on Wednesday.
The US Army’s Defence Exports and Co-operation deputy assistant secretary Elizabeth Wilson echoed Mr Morrison’s sentiments, stating the new missile agreement “complements the US presence in the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility”.
“(The agreement) reinforces our dedication to allies in the Indo-Pacific and sets a path forward for US Army long-range precision fires in the region,” Ms Wilson said.
But China has hit back at the strategic move, claiming the US’s increasing closeness to its allies in the Pacific region demonstrates the nation’s “anxiety” about China’s growing power.
“The US is eager to unite allies and partners, which reflects its strategic anxiety,” wrote Chinese media outlet the Global Times on Thursday.
“Washington aims to strengthen maritime co-operation with allies and strategic partners, flexing muscles against China and demonstrating its deterrence capabilities and determination.”
As part of the new $907m precision strike missile program, the Australian government will contribute more than $70m to advance long-range precision fire capabilities.
Head of the Australian Army’s land capability Simon Stuart said the precision strike guided missile would provide the ADF with “long range and deep strike capability from (Australian) land”.
“The surface-to-surface, all-weather, precision-strike guided missile will be capable of destroying, neutralising and suppressing diverse targets at ranges from 70 to over 400km,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said in a media release on Thursday.
Earlier this week, one of Australia’s most respected think tanks the Lowy Institute warned that China could already strike Australian land from the South China Sea if it chose to do so.
“Absent assistance from allies and partners, China already possesses the capability to strike Australia from existing bases with bomber aircraft and long-range missiles,” its report said.
The think tank cautioned that while the possibility of an Australian-China war remained “remote”, policy makers needed to remain vigilant about the implications of China’s rapidly increasingly military capabilities.