The US government has cleared Australia’s possible purchase of Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) weapons.
The sale would include 80 JASSM-ERs and be valued at $235 million, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification.
The deal includes the weapons as well as a range of services and equipment.
Long-range strike capabilities have emerged as a priority for Canberra, as it contemplates an increasingly challenging security environment owing to Beijing’s aggressive military build-up and sweeping territorial claims.
“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing advanced, long-range strike systems for employment from [Royal Australian Air Force] air platforms including, but not limited to, the [Boeing] F/A-18F Super Hornet and [Lockheed] F-35A Lightning II. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”
In April, then defence minister Peter Dutton approved a A$3.5 billion ($2.4 billion) plan to accelerate the acquisition of JASSM-ERs for F/A-18Fs. His statement, however, did not mention the F-35A.
The potential sale includes weapons in both the AGM-158B and AGM-158B-2 configuration. The AGM-158B-2 is understood to have greater range.
According to Lockheed’s JASSM-ER fact sheet, the weapon has a 500nm (926km) range, uses an infrared seeker to engage targets, and carries a 454kg (1,000lb) warhead. The weapon’s range allows the launch platform to stay outside the range of enemy defences.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” adds the DSCA.
“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”