Australia Cleared To Gain Tomahawk Cruise Missile Capability

The State Department on Thursday approved a potential $895 million deal to sell up to 200 Tomahawk Block V and up to 20 Tomahawk Block IV All Up Rounds (AUR) cruise missiles and related equipment to Australia.

A source familiar with the deal told The War Zone that this is a new introduction of the Tomahawk Weapons Systems for Australia’s Hobart class destroyers.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) launches a Block V Tomahawk, the weapon’s newest variant, during a three-day missile exercise in December 2020. This event marked the first time a Block V Tomahawk missile was operationally tested. U.S. Navy photo by Ens. Sean Ianno/Released

Back in September 2021, then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared his nation’s intention to acquire the Tomahawks. You can read more about that in our coverage here.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on Thursday notified Congress that Australia requested to buy the Tomahawks, as well as support for all three segments of Australia’s Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) including the All Up Round (AUR), the Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS), and the Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC).

The prime U.S. contractor will be Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Tucson, AZ. 

“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to interoperate with U.S. maritime forces and other allied forces as well as its ability to contribute to missions of mutual interest,” according to the DSCA release. 

The Royal Australian Navy has three Hobart class destroyers, which it received between 2017 and 2020. 

A Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning conducts a flypast over HMAS Hobart during Exercise TASMAN SHIELD 21, off the east coast of Australia. Both these platforms are now set to receive new long-range strike missiles. Australian Department of Defense

These modern-designed, 7,000-ton-displacement warships have been optimized primarily for air defense duties. Tomahawks would add powerful new long-range land-attack and maritime strike capabilities and bolster Australia’s anti-access/area-denial deterrent ability against potential future opponents like China.

“By deploying the Tomahawk Weapon System, Australia will contribute to global readiness and enhance the capability of U.S. Forces operating alongside them globally,” according to DSCA. “Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.”

Though the announcement about the potential sale of Tomahawks today is specifically related to plans to arm the Hobart class destroyers, it comes just days after Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. unveiled a three-phase plan to create an Australian nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine capability. This will come via the purchase of at least three and as many as five Virginia class nuclear submarines by Australia and ultimately, the creation of a joint Australian-U.K. class of nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarines dubbed SSN-AUKUS.

An artist’s conception of the future SSN-AUKUS nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine. U.K. Defense Ministry

The Tomahawk is a key component of the arsenal of U.S. Navy Virginia class submarines and this is very likely to be the case with the future Australian boats. The support and training components of this proposed sale could only help Australia start laying the groundwork for a broader capability with these weapons in the future.

It is yet another move by the U.S. to ensure that Australia has the means necessary to defend itself, and U.S. and allied interests, against any potential threat from China.

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