29 February, 2024
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Guided weapons to be game changer for country: Marles


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Defence Minister Richard Marles remains optimistic Australia will have the capacity to make long-range missiles in coming years.

The Albanese government has set aside $4.1 billion for more missiles and to ensure long-range munitions could be manufactured in Australia.

The package, announced just days after the release of the defence strategic review, will see $1.6 billion be used to accelerate the delivery of mobile rocket systems known as HIMARS and precision strike missiles.

A further $2.5 billion will be used for guided weapons and explosives, which Mr Marles said would be a significant increase.

“It’s a complete game changer in being able to have a capability to manufacture guided weapons in this country,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“We’re confident … we will be able to see the beginning of manufacturing in this country within the next couple of years.”

The strategic review into the defence force found the military wasn’t fit for purpose and recommended a focus on long-range strike power to target enemies deeper into the Indo-Pacific.

Mr Marles said talks are under way with major manufacturers about setting up facilities in Australia.

“What we’ve really seen in the war in Ukraine is the worldwide shortage of missiles amongst our friends and allies,” he said.

“For us to acquire this capability for our country going into next five to 10 years, we’re simply going to have to develop an industrial base in this country which can contribute to the manufacturing of guided weapons.”

The minister reiterated defence spending would rise above two per cent of Australia’s GDP, with $19 billion set to be spent during the next four years to implement the findings of the strategic review.

Mr Marles also defended calls that major procurements were being delayed in order for more reviews to be carried out.

“We’re talking about turning around the mission of defence for the first time in 35 years, you don’t do that in a single press conference,” he said.

“Well before Geelong wins the grand final, we will have an answer in relation to what the shape of our future surface fleet looks like, and I think taking an extra couple of months on its own in respect of that makes sense.”

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said there were still risks with the review, which recommended a cut back in infantry fighting vehicles from 450 to 129.

“What we were hoping to see was an overall increase in defence spending, what we’ve seen instead is cost shifting and cuts to capability, specifically army land power,” he told ABC Radio.

“That has consequences if we have to fight in a close combat scenario in our northern land or maritime spaces, or indeed in the Pacific island chain, you’ve got to have that capability and there’s a risk not having it.”


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