Asia Defense

Australia to Buy 450 Advanced US-Made Air-to-Air Missiles

The U.S. State Department has cleared a sale of advanced air-to-air missiles to Australia.

Australia to Buy 450 Advanced US-Made Air-to-Air Missiles
Credit: Raytheon

Australia is slated to purchase 450 AIM-120D advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs) following an April 25 approval by the U.S. Department of State, according to a press release published on the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s (DSCA) website. (DSCA is the lead agency within the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for arms sales to allied nations.)

The estimated cost of the missile sale—which also includes equipment, training, and logistics support—is $1.22 billion. The sale will still need to be approved by the United States Congress in the next weeks in order to proceed. In detail, Australia intends to purchase:

  • Up to 450 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AIM-120D)
  • Up to 34 AIM-120D Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVI)
  • Up to 6 Instrumented Test Vehicles (ITVs)
  • Up to 10 spare AIM-120 Guidance Sections (GSs)

The principal U.S. military contractor for the missile production will be Raytheon. According to IHS Jane’s Missiles & Rockets, the AIM-120D AMRAAM “is an all-weather, all-environment, active radar-guided beyond-visual-range/within-visual-range air-to-air missile, powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor and armed with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead.”

Australia will be the first operator of the latest variant of the missile, the AIM-120D, outside the United States. The latest variant of the AIM-120 “features improved navigation, kinematics, lethality and hardware and software updates to enhance its electronic protection capabilities against more capable threats,” reports.

The DSCA press release notes:

This proposed sale is in support of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) F/A-18, E/A-18G, and F-35 aircraft. This proposed sale will provide the RAAF additional air-to-air intercept capability and increase interoperability with the U.S. Air Force. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces.

As I reported previously, Australia is planning to acquire total of 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, at a cost of around A$98 million ($70 million) per plane. The RAAF’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are slated to reach full operating capability in 2023.

In May 2015, the U.S. State Department also approved the sale of equipment, parts, and logistical support for F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft currently in service with the RAAF for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.

“The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) acquired 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets, which were bought ‘commercial-off-the-shelf,’ bypassing the usual drawn out acquisition process, in 2011. The planes are expected to be in service beyond 2040 (…),” I explained last May.

Australia’s defense expenditure is slated to increase spending from A$32.4 (US$23.07) billion in fiscal year 2016-17 to A$58.7 (US$41.08) billion in 2025-26, according to the new 2016 Defense White Paper released by the Australian Department of Defense in February.