Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

Australia and the USA are planning to develop major new training ranges on the eastern and western Australian seaboards to provide a multinational theatre ballistic missile defence exercise facility and enable the shift of some international maritime exercises into the southern Pacific.

The western range, to be north of Broome, would be set up as a "bare-base" facility extending 100km (60 miles) inland for trials of naval engagement of theatre ballistic missiles in their boost phase.

US Navy planning for the training range started in mid-1996 with teams from the Australian and US departments of defence recently completing an initial round of site assessment studies. The range would use Terrier missiles converted to ballistic missile surrogates.

The proposed eastern range, at Jervis Bay, is to operate supersonic sea-skimming targets and will be used to evaluate warship defences against anti-ship missiles. Australia also plans to use the range to guide decisions on the air defence capability required for existing and future warships, and to test the effectiveness of army and air force strategies for defending against ship- and submarine-launched land-attack missiles.

Australia would be responsible for on-shore facilities, including monitoring and telemetry systems. The USN would provide the upgraded Terrier missiles. Australia plans to acquire supersonic sea-skimming targets for the eastern range. This has been baselined against Terrier missiles converted to supersonic low-altitude target configuration and fitted with a satellite/inertial navigation system.

A Phase 1 funded concept study for the eastern seaboard range is to be carried out by industry later this year. The project will receive Australian Government funding approval in next May's defence budget, enabling the Phase 2 acquisition programme for range infrastructure and target systems to begin early in 2002.

Tenders for the Phase 1 closed this month with at least six teams responding. Confirmed bidders are Serco Defence Systems, ADI, Tenix Defense Systems, Boeing Australia, Raytheon Systems Company Australia and the recently established LOTOS Systems joint venture.

Source: Flight International