Congress Notified of Potential $895M Tomahawk Sale to Australia

March 16, 2023 5:25 PM - Updated: March 17, 2023 4:42 PM
A tomahawk cruise missile launches from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG-86) for a live-fire exercise during Valiant Shield 2018 on Sept. 18, 2018. US Navy Photo

This story has been updated to include comments from Australia’s Minister for Defense Industry Pat Conroy.

The State Department authorized the potential sale of Tomahawk missiles to Australia, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced today.

The deal is for as many as 20 Block IV Tomahawks and 200 Block V Tomahawks for $895 million.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific,” DSCA said in a news release. “The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”

DSCA informed lawmakers about the potential Foreign Military Sale on Thursday.

Australia first said it would buy Tomahawk missiles during the September 2021 unveiling of the trilateral security and technology sharing agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, – known as AUKUS. The missiles, built by Raytheon, will get fielded on the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart-class destroyers.

“Also included is support for all three segments of Australia’s Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) to include the All Up Round (AUR), the Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS) and the Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC),” according to the DSCA news release.
“The support consists of unscheduled missile maintenance; spares; procurement; training; in-service support; software; hardware; communication equipment; operational flight test; engineering and technical expertise to maintain the TWS capability; and other related elements of logistical and program support.”

The deal’s authorization comes several days after President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled a plan for the Royal Australian Navy to pursue nuclear-powered attack submarines that it could build and sustain domestically in the future.

Under the phased arrangement, Australia could initially buy three Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack boats, with the potential to buy two more for a total of five. RAN sailors would continue training with U.S. sailors and start training with U.K. sailors. The three countries would also work toward operating a submarine rotational force out of Australia as soon as 2027.

The United Kingdom would then build the first submarines for Australia, known as SSN AUKUS and based on the U.K.’s SSNR design, for delivery in the late 2030s. After developing Australia’s capacity to build and maintain nuclear-powered attack boats, Australia would start constructing the first boats domestically in the 2040s.

In an interview with Sky News, Australia’s Minister for Defense Industry Pat Conroy said the government has not made a final decision on whether it will put Tomahawks on the Virginia-class attack boats it buys from the U.S. or on the SSN AUKUS submarines. He said given that the U.S. Virginia-class boats field the Tomahawks, the missile “is the logical platform” for Australia’s future submarines.

“[O]bviously we’ve been very clear that any future nuclear powered submarine that we acquire, whether it’s the Virginia’s or SSN AUKUS, will have the capacity for torpedoes, will have the capacity for cruise missiles such as Tomahawks, and hopefully as technology develops, the ability to fire hypersonic missiles,” Conroy said.
“So long range strike is at the heart of this Government’s commitment to equipping the Australian Defence Force, our national security and our [defense] rests on keeping anniversary at bay as far away as possible.”

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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