Australia and the United States inked a new collaborative agreement to develop and test hypersonic cruise missile prototypes.
Making the announcement, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the agreement would provide the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with high-speed long-range strike capabilities to help maintain Australia’s technological edge.
“I am pleased to see this agreement come to fruition following my discussions with then Secretary Esper during my visit to the United States in July this year,” Minister Reynolds continued.
“At AUSMIN, we acknowledged the unique role of our defence partnership to maintain our competitive edge, and affirmed the value of bilateral collaboration on hypersonics.
“That’s why we will continue to invest in advanced capabilities to give the ADF more options to deter aggression against Australia’s interests including the $9.3 billion earmarked in the Force Structure Plan 2020 for high-speed long-range strike and missile defence, including hypersonic development, test and evaluation.”
The agreement will take place under the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) program, which is based on over 15 years of collaboration between Australia and the US on science and technology research into hypersonic scramjets, rocket motors, sensors, and advanced manufacturing materials.
Minister Reynolds said the experiment would culminate in flight demonstrations to show how the weapon performs in operational conditions, which will inform any future acquisitions.
“Developing this game-changing capability with the United States from an early stage is providing opportunities for Australian industry,” Minister Reynolds added.
“This demonstrates the Morrison Government’s commitment to strengthening Australia’s sovereign defence industry while creating more high-tech Australian jobs and enhancing the ADF’s self-reliance.
“Investing in capabilities that deter actions against Australia also benefits our region, our allies and our security partners.”
Mr Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary for Research and Engineering, US Department of Defense, welcomed the new collaboration as ‘a true testament’ to the enduring friendship and strong partnership between the two countries.
“This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the US and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” he said.
“We thank the Australian Department of Defence for their shared commitment to this game-changing effort.”