Australia wins US approval to buy rocket launchers

The US approved several weapons sales worth as much as US$3.1 billion (S$4.26 billion) to allies. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US State Department has approved the sale of mobile rocket launchers to Australia, as the country seeks to boost its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US approved several weapons sales worth as much as US$3.1 billion (S$4.26 billion) to allies, the Pentagon said on Tuesday (May 24), including helicopters to Egypt and missiles to the Netherlands.

Australia has been boosting its defence spending over the past few years as China looks to step up its presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Last year, Australia entered into a deal to buy nuclear submarines from the United States and Britain.

The sale to Australia of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (Himars) launchers and related equipment will cost an estimated US$385 million.

Australia requested to buy 20 Himars and other equipment, the Pentagon said. The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin, L3Harris Corp and Chelton Inc, it said.

Approval by the State Department at this point virtually ensures the sales will go through.

The US also approved the sale of CH-47F Chinook helicopters and related equipment to Egypt for an estimated cost of US$2.6 billion.

Egypt requested to buy 23 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, the Pentagon said, adding that the principal contractor will be Boeing Helicopter Co.

The Netherlands increased a previous order for AIM-9X Block II Tactical Missiles and AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Missiles. The missiles will be made by Raytheon and have a total approximate value of US$117 million, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.

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