US to help Australia boost missile manufacturing

Brisbane, Australia - Washington will seek to bolster its shrinking weapons stockpiles by helping Australia develop a missile manufacturing and exporting industry, top officials said Saturday after high-level talks between the two countries.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (c.) speaks to Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (l.) while US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin looks on during a press conference at Queensland Government House in Brisbane on July 29, 2023.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (c.) speaks to Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (l.) while US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin looks on during a press conference at Queensland Government House in Brisbane on July 29, 2023.  © Pat Hoelscher / AFP

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles announced the project after meetings in Brisbane with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.

"We hope to see manufacturing of missiles commenced in Australia in two years' time," Marles told reporters, hailing the initiative as a boost to his country's defense and industrial base.

"We are really pleased with the steps that we are taking in respect of establishing a guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise in this country," he added.

Missing Australian fisherman may have been found inside crocodile
Australia Missing Australian fisherman may have been found inside crocodile

The project will see Australia develop guided multiple launch rocket systems, or GMLRS.

Austin said the plan would help the United States "sharpen our technological edge and strengthen our defense industrial base."

Washington will now work to help Australia build a fledgling domestic missile industry almost from scratch, with an eye to securing a reliable pipeline for its own armed forces down the track.

The war in Ukraine has exposed weaknesses in many Western military supply chains and has steadily depleted stocks of missiles and other munitions.

Australia is currently embarking on its own armed forces overhaul, pivoting towards long-range strike capabilities in an effort to keep other countries like China at arm's length.

Joint military exercises marred by helicopter crash

A missile is launched from a United States military HIMARS system during joint military drills at a firing range in northern Australia as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre, on July 22, 2023.
A missile is launched from a United States military HIMARS system during joint military drills at a firing range in northern Australia as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre, on July 22, 2023.  © ANDREW LEESON / AFP

The two-day Australia-US meeting that ended on Saturday was heavily focused on regional security and military cooperation, as the longtime allies work to curb China's growing power in the Pacific region.

The talks were partially overshadowed when an Australian MRH-90 Taipan military helicopter crashed in subtropical waters off the coast of Queensland late Friday, prompting the suspension of a major military exercise between the two countries.

The four crew members are still missing, and concern is growing for their wellbeing.

Woman stranded in Australian Outback survives on lollipops and wine!
Australia Woman stranded in Australian Outback survives on lollipops and wine!

They had been taking part in the vast Talisman Sabre exercise, which features 30,000 military personnel from Australia, the United States, and several other nations.

Both Australian and US officials expressed concern about the incident, but insisted drills were needed to ensure both militaries were "match fit."

The meeting signaled that joint operations and projects are only likely to increase.

Australia to host "increased tempo" of US nuclear submarines

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles (l.) talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press conference in Brisbane.
Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles (l.) talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press conference in Brisbane.  © Pat Hoelscher / AFP

Canberra agreed to refurbish military bases in the strategically-important north of the country, allowing them to host training exercises and ramped-up rotations of US troops.

"There is a commitment to increase American force posture in respect of our northern bases, in respect of our maritime patrols and our reconnaissance aircraft," said Marles.

Australia would also be hosting an "increased tempo" of visits by US nuclear-powered submarines, Marles added.

Washington and Canberra discussed progress on the AUKUS security treaty, a landmark military pact that will see Australia develop its own nuclear-powered submarines.

Both sides sought to downplay the chance of the US Congress blocking the transfer of sensitive military know-how to Australia.

Marles said he believed there was ultimately a strong bipartisan commitment to the agreement among US lawmakers, some of whom have questioned why Washington is selling submarines to Australia when it is struggling to replenish its own navy.

The deal, he noted, would be "advancing not just the American strategic interests, but also the joint strategic interests between our two countries."

"We couldn't be happier with the progress."

Cover photo: Pat Hoelscher / AFP

More on Australia: