Australia has announced its intention to purchase up to 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States, in a deal valued at nearly $900 million. The US State Department has approved the sale, which needs a final sign-off from Congress.
The Tomahawk missiles are long-range, precision-guided weapons that can be launched from submarines and ships, and can strike targets more than 1,000 kilometers away. Australia will become only the second US ally to acquire the Tomahawks, after the United Kingdom.
The purchase of the Tomahawks is part of Australia’s broader efforts to enhance its defense capabilities and deterrence posture in the Indo-Pacific region, where China has been expanding its military presence and influence. Australia has also recently joined a new security partnership with the US and the UK, known as AUKUS, which will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines and share advanced technology with its allies. The AUKUS deal has sparked a diplomatic row with France, which lost a lucrative contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia, and has also drawn criticism from China, which accused the three countries of “triggering a regional arms race”.
So what are the implications of Australia’s acquisition of the Tomahawk missiles for regional security and stability? Here are some possible scenarios and perspectives:
- The Tomahawks could enhance Australia’s ability to conduct long-range strikes against potential adversaries, such as China or North Korea, in case of a conflict or crisis. The missiles could also provide Australia with more options and flexibility to respond to emerging threats or contingencies in the region, such as humanitarian disasters or terrorist attacks.
- The Tomahawks could also increase Australia’s interoperability with its US and UK allies, as well as other partners that share similar platforms and systems, such as Japan. This could facilitate joint operations and exercises, as well as information and intelligence sharing, among like-minded countries that seek to uphold a rules-based order and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific.
- The Tomahawks could also signal Australia’s commitment and resolve to defend its national interests and values, as well as those of its allies and partners, in the face of growing challenges and uncertainties in the region. The missiles could also demonstrate Australia’s willingness and capability to contribute to regional peace and stability, as well as to global security issues that affect its interests.
- However, the Tomahawks could also provoke negative reactions from China and other countries that view them as a threat or a provocation. The missiles could also escalate tensions and mistrust in the region, and increase the risk of miscalculation or miscommunication in a crisis situation. The missiles could also undermine efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation on common challenges and opportunities in the region, such as climate change, pandemic response, or economic recovery.
- Moreover, the Tomahawks could also raise questions about Australia’s compliance with its international obligations and norms, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The missiles could also pose challenges for Australia’s domestic politics and public opinion, as some sectors of society may oppose or question the need for such weapons or their impact on Australia’s relations with other countries.
In conclusion, Australia’s decision to buy 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US is a significant development that will have implications for regional security and stability. The missiles will provide Australia with enhanced capabilities and options to defend its interests and values, as well as to cooperate with its allies and partners. However, the missiles will also entail risks and challenges for Australia’s relations with other countries, especially China, as well as for its compliance with international norms and obligations. Therefore, Australia will need to carefully manage the acquisition and deployment of the Tomahawks, while also pursuing dialogue and confidence-building measures with other stakeholders in the region.
Tomahawk Land Attack Missile
Tomahawk cruise missiles are among the most advanced and versatile weapons in the arsenal of the United States Navy and Royal Navy. They can be launched from ships and submarines, and fly at subsonic speeds for up to 1,000 miles, avoiding enemy defenses and hitting targets with high precision.
The Tomahawk program began in the 1970s when the U.S. Navy sought a long-range, low-altitude missile that could be used for land-attack and anti-ship missions. The missile was designed by a team of engineers at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, under contract from the Navy. The first version of the Tomahawk, known as TLAM-A, was equipped with a nuclear warhead and entered service in 1983. Since then, several variants and upgrades have been developed, including conventional warheads, improved guidance systems, data links, and moving target capabilities.
The current version of the Tomahawk is the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM), which was introduced in 2004. Block IV has several features that make it more flexible and effective than its predecessors. For example, it has a two-way satellite data link that allows it to receive updates from its launch platform or other sources, and to change its target or flight path in mid-air. It can also loiter over an area for hours, waiting for the optimal time to strike. The Block IV has a modular design that allows it to carry different types of warheads, depending on the mission.
The U.S. Navy is currently working on a new series of upgrades for the Tomahawk, called Block V, which will extend its service life by 15 years and enhance its performance. Block V will include three sub-variants: Block V, which will have upgraded navigation and communication; Block Va, which will have the ability to strike moving targets at sea; and Block Vb, which will have a new warhead that can hit more diverse land targets.
The Tomahawk cruise missile has been used extensively in combat since becoming operational in 1983. It has been deployed in conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Odyssey Dawn, and Operation Inherent Resolve. It has also been used to strike targets in Syria, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. The Tomahawk has proven to be a reliable and effective weapon that can deliver precision strikes against high-value targets in challenging environments.