The US State Department has approved the potential sale of Tomahawk cruise missiles to Australia in a deal valued at up to $1.3billion.
The Pentagon has approved the sale of 220 of the missiles in a multi-billion dollar deal that will also include technical support.
The sale of the missiles follows the announcement of Australia acquiring multiple nuclear submarines under the AUKUS alliance at a cost of up to $368 billion.
The sale has been approved by the US State Department but needs to be signed off by Congress before it can be finalised.
The US State Department has approved the potential sale of Tomahawk cruise missiles to Australia in a deal valued at up to $895 million
The package would include up to 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles and technical support
Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed Australia was looking to boost its missile capacity.
‘It’s a really important part of what we need to be doing with our posture, which is to have a greater ability to project,’ Marles told the Today Show.
‘That’s at the heart of what we’re doing with submarines, of course, but making sure we have longer range strike missiles is a really important capability for the country.
‘It enables us to be able to reach out beyond our shores further and that’s ultimately how we are able to keep Australia safe.’
Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said Australia could be given the missiles before the new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines arrive under the AUKUS deal.
‘This is how we promote peace and stability, by putting question marks in my potential adversary’s mind,’ he told ABC News.
‘That is why the Tomahawks are important and the nuclear-powered submarines are vital.’
On Tuesday, Mr Albanese announced Canberra will acquire three US Virginia-class nuclear submarines – built by weapons manufacturer General Dynamics – from the United States from approximately 2033, with an option to buy two more.
Mr Conroy said the Tomahawk missiles were able to be fired from the US Virginia-class submarines.
‘We certainly want the best possible capability for the Australian Defence Force so that includes the ability to strike opponents as far away as possible from the Australian mainland,’ he said.
‘The cruise missiles are a critical part of that, as are the submarines that launch them.’
Australia will command a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines within the next three decades under a fast-tracked plan to deter Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific
The announcement of the missiles follows criticism from former Labor prime minister Paul Keating about the submarine deal.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said despite the critiques, the coalition would be backing the security partnership.
‘We’ve all been on the end of Paul Keating sprays but it was a special effort this week,’ he said.
‘It is in our country’s best interests. That’s why we negotiated AUKUS and we will do everything we can to help the government get through the family feud.’
Mr Marles said the attacks on the AUKUS deal were not surprising, but the submarine agreement was the right decision.
‘We’ll make sure we deal with all that but at the end of the day, we are focused in speaking to the Australian people as we are with our own party room,’ he said.
Under the AUKUS deal announced on Tuesday, a new SSN-AUKUS-class hybrid vessel will also arrive in Australian waters about a decade after the US Virginia-class submarines arrive.
The SSN-AUKUS will be similar to the existing US Virginia-class submarine given it will have an American nuclear reactor. It will be built in the UK by BAE Systems.
Australian submariners are already training in nuclear submarine technology in the US, Mr Albanese revealed.
Meanwhile, a new submarine base to house the nuclear-powered-AUKUS fleet will be created along the east coast with Port Kembla, in NSW, tipped as the new location.
Mr Albanese said the AUKUS deal strengthens the military relationship with the US and UK.
‘A friendship built on our shared values, our commitment to democracy and our common vision for a peaceful and a prosperous future,’ he said.
‘This is only the first time in 65 years and only the second time in history that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology. And we thank you for it.
‘This is a genuine trilateral undertaking. All three nations stand ready to contribute and all three nations stand ready to benefit.’
More to come