The Australian government has selected U.S. defense contractor Raytheon to develop a new short-range ground-based air defense system for the Australian Army, according to an Australian Department of Defense (DoD) press release.
The government is slated to release a single supplier limited request for tender to Raytheon Australia in the first half of 2017 to develop a short-range variant of the Raytheon/Kongsberg Gruppen mid-range National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) currently in service in the United States and five other countries.
Raytheon has been identified as the prime system integrator for the capability.
The defense deal — approximately worth US$1.5 billion — is the first step in the development of the army’s contribution to the Australian Defense Force’s (ADF’s) Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), a program jointly established with the United States to protect ADF forces deployed in the region from ballistic missile attack.
“A modern and integrated ground-based air defense system is needed to protect our deployed forces from increasingly sophisticated air threats, both globally and within our region,” Australia’s minister of defense, Marise Payne, said in a statement.
The ADF currently operates the RBS-70, a very short-range man-portable air defense system first introduced into service in the late 1980s. “Australia’s current short-range capability is 30 years old and due to be retired early next decade. The replacement system will provide improved protection for our deployed servicemen and women,” Payne added.
The new air defense system will “provide the innermost layer of Australia’s enhanced integrated air and missile capability” and will be operated by the Australian Army’s 16th Air Land Regiment, the service’s only ground-based air defense unit.
In a separate statement, the managing director of Raytheon Australia, Michael Ward, said that Raytheon’s “offering draws on a common launch rail that can make effective use of multiple weapons from existing Australian Defense Force inventory.”
“As the prime systems integrator, our solution will provide short- and medium-range defense capability using in-service multi-purpose AIM-9X and AMRAAM missiles, providing a system to meet Army’s ground based air and missile defense requirements,” he added.
The AIM-9X has a maximum operational range of 22 miles, whereas some variants of the AIM-120 can engage targets at a distance of up to 100 miles. Both weapons systems can engage enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missile at supersonic speed.
Australia’s defense spending is slated to increase by over 80 percent — from US$23.07 billion in fiscal year 2016-17 to US$41.08 billion in 2025-26 — over the next decade.