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US to build guided weapons in Australia as part of GWEO

Australia’s Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise (GWEO) will start by manufacturing guided weapons as part of the US supply chain, following an agreement announced at the 33rd AUSMIN (Australia-US Ministerial) talks at the end of July in Brisbane.

The two countries agreed to collaborate on a flexible guided weapons production capability in Australia, with an initial focus on co-production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) by 2025. This is key to expanding the combined industrial power of the Alliance and to building Australia’s industrial infrastructure and skilled workforce, the two governments said in a joint communique.

Following the Defence Strategic Review the GWEO was allocated $2.5 billion in funding; the GWEO has two Strategic Partners, Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia, who manufacture between them most of the guided weapons used by the ADF. GWEO has also named three Enterprise Partners, Aurecon, Australian Missile Corporation (owned by NIOA Group) and the Sovereign Missile Alliance (SMA), a joint venture between EOS Defence and Nova Systems.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to transfer technical data for the M795 155mm artillery shell in support of future production in Australia as well as to progress the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade of priority munitions in Australia, noting this would enhance supply chain resilience. The initial focus will be on MK-48 heavyweight torpedoes and SM-2 missiles.

This was the first AUSMIN since 2022 and the two governments were represented as always by their respective Ministers or Secretaries for Defence and Foreign Affairs. The communique from this year’s AUSMIN talks included:

  • establishing a Combined Intelligence Centre – Australia within Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation by 2024. The Centre would further enhance the long-standing intelligence cooperation between the Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation and the US Defense Intelligence Agency, focused on analysing issues of shared strategic concern in the Indo-Pacific
  • collaboration on critical technologies and innovation to ensure the Alliance’s asymmetrical capability edge and to explore opportunities for regional co-development, co-production, and co-sustainment aligned to agreed capability priorities
  • future collaboration between Australia’s Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator and the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and Strategic Capabilities Office including on synergies for planned capability programs
  • upgrades at key northern Australian bases, including RAAF Bases Darwin, Tindal, Scherger and Curtin.
  • Enhanced Air Cooperation and the rotation of US Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft in Australia
  • Enhanced Maritime Cooperation including more regular and longer visits of U.S. SSNs from 2023 to Australia, with a focus on HMAS Stirling. These visits would help build Australia’s capacity in preparation for Submarine Rotational Force-West, an important milestone for the AUKUS Optimal Pathway that would commence as early as 2027
  • a regular rotation of US Army Watercraft in Australia, commencing with participation in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE.
  • A ‘proof of principle’ prepositioning of US Army stores and materiel in Bandiana, Australia as a precursor to the longer-term establishment of an enduring Logistics Support Area in Queensland
  • enhanced trilateral Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) cooperation with Japan
  • streamlined defence trade controls and information sharing between the two countries
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