Demand exploding for Tomahawk missiles as US backs latest foreign sale

WASHINGTON – Australia plans to buy the latest version of America’s long-range Tomahawk land-attack missile in a $985 million deal the US State Department approved on Thursday.

This is the latest surge in demand for the Tomahawk, made by Raytheon Technologies, after US Navy officials said this week that their proposed budget with foreign military sales would max out the production line. Japan’s new budget would reportedly buy 400 Tomahawks in bulk for up to $1.6 billion, among other counter-strike capabilities.

The U.S.-Australia deal includes up to 200 Block V and 20 Block IV rounds and associated support, according to the State Department’s announcement.

Canberra said the missiles would be deployed on its Hobart-class destroyers so they could hit land targets at a greater distance and with greater precision. Variants of the Block V can switch targets in flight and hit moving targets at sea.

Tomahawk’s range of more than 1,000 miles is particularly important in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s missile forces have exceptional range, as their DF-26 and DF-21 missiles have 2,490 and 1,335, respectively, according to the Center for Strategic and International studies have miles of reach.

The US Navy began using the Block V Tomahawk in 2021 for the vertical launch systems on surface ships, but also on attack submarines, which can more easily operate within range of China’s missile forces.

The US-Australia deal comes days after the two countries and Britain announced that Australia would acquire nuclear submarines by 2040 – first hosting and later buying US Virginia-class attack submarines in the US meanwhile

Canberra announced in 2021 its intention to purchase Tomahawks along with Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Extended Range Missiles for its fighter jets and Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles, both manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It also participates in the US-led Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) program.

“The proposed sale will enhance Australia’s ability to work with U.S. naval forces and other allied forces, as well as its ability to contribute to missions of mutual interest,” the State Department announcement said.

“By deploying the Tomahawk Weapons System, Australia will contribute to global preparedness and enhance the capabilities of US forces operating alongside them around the world. Australia will use the enhanced capabilities to deter regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defenses.”

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, government and the defense industry. He was previously a convention reporter.


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