The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) launches a new Block V Tomahawk during a missile exercise on Dec. 1, 2020, marking the first time a Block V Tomahawk missile was operationally tested. (Ens. Sean Ianno/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON ― Australia plans to buy the latest version of America’s long-range Tomahawk land attack missile in a $985 million deal the U.S. State Department said it approved Thursday.

It’s the latest in a surge of demand for the Raytheon Technologies-made Tomahawk, after U.S. Navy officials said this week their proposed budget, with foreign military sales, would max out the production line. Japan’s new budget would reportedly bulk-buy 400 Tomahawks for as much as $1.6 billion, among other counterstrike capabilities.

The U.S.-Australia deal is for up to 200 Block V and 20 Block IV rounds, plus related support, according to the State Department announcement.

Canberra has said the missiles would be fielded on its Hobart-class destroyers, enabling them to strike land targets at greater distances, with better precision. Variants of the Block V can change targets in flight and strike moving targets at sea.

Tomahawk’s range of more than 1,000 miles is especially important in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s rocket force has extraordinary reach as its DF-26 and DF-21 missiles have ranges of 2,490 and 1,335 miles respectively, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

New Japanese strategy to up defense spending, counterstrike purchases

The U.S. Navy in 2021 began fielding the Block V Tomahawk for the vertical launching systems on surface ships, but also on attack submarines that can more easily operate within range of China’s rocket force.

The U.S.-Australia deal comes days after the two countries and Britain announced Australia would acquire nuclear-powered submarines by 2040 ― first hosting and later buying U.S. Virginia-class attack subs during the interim.

Canberra in 2021 announced its intent to purchase Tomahawks, along with Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles-Extended Range for its fighter jets and Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles, which are both made by Lockheed Martin. It is also participating in the U.S.-led Precision Strike Missile program, or PrSM.

“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to interoperate with U.S. maritime forces and other allied forces as well as its ability to contribute to missions of mutual interest,” the State Department announcement reads.

“By deploying the Tomahawk Weapon System, Australia will contribute to global readiness and enhance the capability of U.S. Forces operating alongside them globally. Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.”

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.



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