Australia accelerates $1 billion missile programme with US

CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Australia is liaising with its United States ally to accelerate a A$1 billion (S$1.02 billion) plan designed to create a sovereign guided-missile programme, according to Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

"We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia's needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner," Mr Dutton said in a statement on Wednesday (March 31).

Australia and the US - which have both had increasing tensions with China - in November signed an agreement to develop and test hypersonic cruise missile prototypes, with long-range strike capabilities.

The deal is under the nations' 15-year Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) programme, which studies hypersonic scramjets, rocket motors, sensors and advanced manufacturing materials.

Mr Dutton's department is in the process of selecting a strategic industry partner to operate the missile programme's manufacturing capability, which could lead to export opportunities, he said.

The statement cited estimates by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think-tank that Australia would spend A$100 billion in the next 20 years on missile and guided-weapons purchases.