Australia Re-Establishes Domestic Missile Manufacturing Base

Credit: HIFIRE: Australia Ministry of Defense

Australia’s government will invest $761 million (AUS$1 billion) to create an industrial capability to manufacture missile and guided weapons for delivery to the domestic military and export markets, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said March 30. 

The Department of Defense will now select a foreign industry partner with an Australian presence to operate a manufacturing complex for a wide range of ground- and air-launched munitions, Morrison said. 

“Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe, while also providing thousands of local jobs in businesses right across the defense supply chain,” Morrison added.

The move expands the Morrison government’s national strategy for defense manufacturing to include munitions. The strategy already prioritizes production of unmanned aircraft for the domestic market and advanced radar systems for export. The plan previously supported Boeing’s decision to design and build the Airpower Teaming System in Queensland. 

Australia’s new push on missile manufacturing revives a 1960s-era industry that produced the Ikara anti-submarine missile and the Malkara anti-tank missile, with participation by the U.K. defense industry. More recently, Australia fielded and exported the locally developed Nulka decoy missile. 

In addition to license production of air-to-air and strike weapons, the new investment also is expected to support co-development with the U.S. military of a new generation of hypersonic strike missiles. 

In November, U.S. and Australian defense officials announced a new project called the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFIRE).

A goal of SCIFIRE is to pursue co-production opportunities for air-breathing, hypersonic weapons, building on the U.S.-Australian Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation program. 

In March, the U.S. Government Accountability Office clarified that SCIFIRE could serve as a bridge between the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept experiment by DARPA and a follow-on, scramjet-powered cruise missile program. 

A DOD spokesman added that the bridge program also applies to potential joint U.S./Australian development of a new hypersonic missile. 

“It also establishes a bridge to our allied partners in that it brings Australia into a cooperative co-development effort with us for future hypersonic cruise missiles,” the spokesman said. 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.