Australia said it will purchase U.S.-made mobile rocket launchers that can precisely strike far afield targets in a substantial boost for its military capability as China-U.S. rivalry in the region intensifies.
The weapons deal announced Thursday is the latest sign of the closer defense alliance between the United States and Australia in response to China’s growing military strength.
Australia’s government said the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which Ukraine’s military has used in recent months to inflict losses on Russian forces, will be deployed by 2026.
“In the current strategic environment, it’s important the Australian Defence Force is equipped with high-end, targeted military capabilities,” Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said in a statement.
The HIMARS system has a range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles), which is predicted to increase to about 500 kilometers as technological advances are made. Its weapon-locating radar can detect threats from land, air and sea.
Mounted on rugged terrain trucks, the weapon is highly mobile while its long range allows it to operate well behind front lines.
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin says there are more than 450 of its “shoot and scoot” artillery launchers in use worldwide.
The Australian army’s existing rocket launchers have a range of only 30 kilometers (19 miles), Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, told state broadcaster ABC.
HIMARS will be a “massive increase in land strike capability,” he said. “The Ukrainian conflict has demonstrated its utility.”
Australia did not say how many of the mobile rocket launchers it had agreed to purchase. In May last year, the