Australia will begin manufacture of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles next year with the ambition to eventually ramp up production to supply the Australian Defence Force and other.
GMLRS, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is launched from the HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system), a wheeled vehicle, of which the ADF plans to acquire 42.
Acting Defence Minister Pat Conroy said we lived in a missile age with adversaries and potential adversaries and others invested in greater capabilities for long range strike.
He said the ADF needed to increase its ability to hold adversaries at arm’s length and the government planned to invest $4.1 billion across the forward estimates in long range strike and missile manufacturing.
“Today I am announcing a $37 million contract with Lockheed Martin Australia to begin manufacturing missiles in Australia in 2025,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“This contract is about manufacturing an initial batch of missiles to facilitate technology transfer from the US, establish processes for engineering certification and building the technical skills in the workforces ahead of manufacturing at scale.”
Conroy said the GMLRS missiles from the HIMARS launch vehicle had been employed to devasting effect by Ukrainian forces against Russians troops, vehicles and equipment.
GMLRS is a four-metre missile with a range of around 70 kilometres, with guidance by GPS and inertial navigation. Six GMLRS missiles are transported and launched from a single pod aboard the HIMARS vehicle.
Australia has sought around 1500 missiles through the US FMS system to stand up initial capabilities.
The Minister also announced Australia would also be acquiring the first batch of HIMARS-launched Precision Strike Missiles (PrSM) which have a range in excess of 500 kilometres.
“Over the course of a relatively few years the Australian Army will go from its longest-range weapon being 40 kilometres, to then 70 kilometres, and then 500 kilometres,” he said.
“I am also announcing that we have joined the development program for PrSM increments three and four that have the objective of extending the range of PrSM for both land and maritime strike to around 1000 kilometres.”
Australia signed onto earlier increments of PrSM development in 2021 in conjunction with the US Army. The Australian Army plans to stand up a PrSM capability by mid-decade.
Conroy said the initial batch of GMLRS missiles will be assembled by Lockheed Martin at Defence Establishment Orchard Hills in Western Sydney, initially from sub-components imported from the US.
“The longterm aspiration is to develop the capability to build all aspects of the missile round in Australia,” he said.
“We have aspirations for the Precision Strike Missile as well as we establish an Australian missile manufacturing capability.”
Lockheed Martin Australia stated that under the $37.4 million Guided Weapons Production Capability (GWPC) Risk Reduction Activity contract, the company will commence fit out in preparation for a guided weapons production capability at the Defence Establishment Orchard Hills in western Sydney.
“This partnership exemplifies our enduring commitment to innovation, growth and creating a strategically important capability," said Ken Kota, Vice President Australian Defence Strategic Capabilities Office, Lockheed Martin.
"In readiness for making the GMLRS AURs and LPCs in Australia, a team of Lockheed Martin Australia engineers will be sent to the U.S. for specialised training at Lockheed Martin’s guided weapons production facilities before returning to Australia to begin this important work."