CANBERRA, Australia — Australia said it plans to buy up to 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States after the US State Department approved the sale on Friday.
The deal comes days after Australia announced it would buy nuclear-powered attack submarines from the United States to modernize its fleet amid growing concerns over China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Australian officials said the new nuclear-powered submarines could fire the Tomahawk missiles.
Japan last month also announced plans to upgrade its military in an effort to deter China, including buying 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles for deployment starting in 2026.
The sale of Australian missiles is priced at nearly $900 million. The prime contractor will be Arizona-based Raytheon Missiles and Defense.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” the State Department said in a statement. “Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific.”
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said his country would work closely with the US.
“Making sure we have longer-range attack missiles is a really important capability for the country,” Marles told Channel Nine. “It allows us to reach beyond our shores and ultimately that is how we can keep Australia safe.”
Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy said the missiles could be fired from Virginia-class submarines Australia would buy under the so-called AUKUS deal.
“We certainly want the best possible capability for the Australian Defense Force, which includes the ability to strike opponents as far away from the Australian mainland as possible,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Cruise missiles are a critical part of that. , just like the submarines that launch them.”
The submarine deal has raised concerns that it could clear the way for bad actors to escape nuclear oversight in the future. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, vowed this week to be “very demanding” in overseeing the planned transfer from the US to Australia.
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating this week launched a vicious attack on his country’s plans, saying that because of the enormous cost, “it must be the worst deal ever.”
Australian officials have estimated the cost of the submarines at between 268 billion and 368 billion Australian dollars ($178-$245 billion) over three decades.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government had been transparent about spending.
“The assessment to be made is whether purchasing, and then building, our own nuclear-powered submarines increases our defense capability by more than 10%? I bet so,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “That’s why it represents good value.”
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