Australia is the second American partner after the UK acquired the US-made weapon after the US State Department authorized its request to purchase up to 220 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.
According to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency statement, the operation will cost up to A$1.3 billion ($895 million), including maintenance and logistical support.
According to the statement, the planned sale will increase Australia’s interoperability with US maritime forces and other partner forces and its capacity to contribute to missions of mutual interest.
The agreement was approved the same week the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom provided additional information regarding AUKUS, their trilateral agreement to share technology and resources to construct a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Under this agreement, the United States will sell Australia at least three Virginia-class submarines. In addition, Australia and the United Kingdom will construct their own fleets of new nuclear-powered submarines to boost the capabilities of its partners in the Indo-Pacific, where China has been constructing military assets.
Tomahawk missiles were first used in the Gulf War in 1991. They fly at high subsonic speeds at very low altitudes and are guided by different customized systems for each mission. The US Navy says they can be launched from US Navy ships and submarines made in the US and the UK.
So far, only the UK has bought Tomahawks from the US, but Japan recently announced its intention to buy hundreds of these missiles, which cover a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), to boost its defense capabilities.
The Tomahawks might be utilized by the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart-class destroyers and are compatible with the Virginia-class submarines Australia expects to acquire from the United States as part of the AUKUS arrangement.
Defense Minister Pat Conroy of Australia said on Friday that weapons are an important deterrent and an interview with ABC, a national Australian news outlet.
To “keep any prospective adversaries at bay,” as Conroy put it to ABC, “this government is equipping the ADF with the best capability available,” which includes increasing the ADF’s long-range strike capability. Peace and stability are promoted this way because any possible adversary will doubt our intentions.
Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating has been a vocal critic of the multibillion-dollar AUKUS contract this week, despite the fact that it has the support of Australia’s two main political parties.
In a statement, Keating, the country’s leader from 1991 to 1996, said it was “the worst international decision by an Australian Labor government” in more than 100 years.
“Australia locks itself into its next half-century in Asia as a subservient to the United States, an Atlantic power,” he wrote.
Referring to the submarines, Keating stated: “The fact is we don’t need them,” arguing that more diesel-electric powered submarines – an expansion of Australia’s fleet of Collins-class submarines – would be sufficient to defend Australia’s coastline.
The cost of AUKUS is estimated to be $245 billion (A$368 billion) over 30 years.