Australia is buying up to 220 Tomahawk missiles from the US

Matthew Daniels/US Navy via Getty Images

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 navy amid growing concerns about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Australian officials said the new nuclear-powered submarines would be capable of launching the Tomahawk missiles.

Japan also last month announced plans to upgrade its military in a bid to deter China, including buying 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles for deployment as soon as 2026.

The Australian missile sale comes with a price tag of nearly $900 million. The prime contractor will be Arizona-based Raytheon Missiles and Defense.

“This proposed sale will support United States foreign policy and national security objectives,” 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 United States

“Making sure we have longer-range strike missiles is a really important capability for the country,” Marles told Channel Nine. “It enables us to reach further beyond our shores and is ultimately how we are able to keep Australia safe.”

Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy said the missiles could be launched from the Virginia-class submarines Australia would buy under the so-called AUKUS deal.

“We certainly want the best possible capability for the Australian Defense Force, so that includes the ability to strike adversaries as far away from the Australian mainland as possible,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “The cruise missiles are a critical part of that, as are the submarines that launch them.”

The submarine deal has raised concerns that it could pave the way for bad actors to evade 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 scathing attack on his nation’s plans, saying that because of the huge cost, “it has to be the worst deal in history.”

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 that needs to be made is does the purchase, and so we build our own nuclear-powered submarines, increase the capability for us to defend ourselves by more than 10%? You bet it does,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “That’s why it represents good value.”

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