US to help Australia develop missile manufacturing industry

Chopper crash pauses military exercise, four missing

BRISBANE: Washington will seek to bolster its shrinking weapons stockpiles by helping Australia develop a missile manufacturing and exporting industry, top officials said Saturday after high-level talks between the two countries. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles announced the project after meetings in Brisbane with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin. “We hope to see manufacturing of missiles commenced in Australia in two years’ time,” Marles told reporters, hailing the initiative as a boost to his country’s defense and industrial base.

“We are really pleased with the steps that we are taking in respect of establishing a guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise in this country,” he added. The project will see Australia develop guided multiple launch rocket systems, or GMLRS. Austin said the plan would help the United States “sharpen our technological edge and strengthen our defense industrial base”. Washington will now work to help Australia build a fledgling domestic missile industry almost from scratch, with an eye to securing a reliable pipeline for its own armed forces down the track.

The war in Ukraine has exposed weaknesses in many Western military supply chains and has steadily depleted stocks of missiles and other munitions. Australia is currently embarking on its own armed forces overhaul, pivoting towards long-range strike capabilities in an effort to keep would-be foes such as China at arm’s length. Increased tempo The two-day Australia-US meeting that ended on Saturday was heavily focused on regional security and military cooperation, as the longtime allies work to curb China’s growing power in the Pacific region.

The talks were partially overshadowed when an Australian MRH-90 Taipan military helicopter crashed in subtropical waters off the coast of Queensland late Friday, prompting the suspension of a major military exercise between the two countries. The four crew members are still missing and concern is growing for their wellbeing. They had been taking part in the vast Talisman Saber exercise, which features 30,000 military personnel from Australia, the United States and several other nations. Both Australian and US officials expressed concern about the incident, but insisted drills were needed to ensure both militaries were “match fit”. The meeting signaled that joint operations and projects are only likely to increase.

Canberra agreed to refurbish military bases in the strategically-important north of the country, allowing them to host training exercises and ramped-up rotations of US troops. Four Australian military aircrew are missing after their helicopter ditched in waters off the country’s northeast coast while on a major military exercise, Defense Minister Richard Marles said Saturday. Meanwhile, Australian police said Saturday that debris had been found from the Australian military helicopter that crashed into the Pacific Ocean, but there was still no sign of four missing crew members after a night and day’s search.

Militaries from at least three nations have joined police in looking for the crew of an MRH-90 Taipan that went down late Friday night in subtropical waters off the northeast coast of Australia. The chopper had been taking part in the large-scale Talisman Saber exercise, which brings together 30,000 military personnel from Australia, the United States and several other nations. The MRH-90 Taipan went down late Friday night in sub-tropical waters off Hamilton Island, Queensland, while taking part in the 30,000-strong Talisman Sabere drills.

“As we speak to you now, the four aircrew are yet to be found” Marles said after a nearly 12 hour overnight search, which is set to continue Saturday. “The families of the four aircrew have been notified of this incident and our hopes and thoughts are very much with the aircrew and their families,” he added. “We desperately hope for better news during the course of this day.” Defense officials announced a pause in the Talisman Saber exercise, which also includes soldiers from Japan, France, Germany, and South Korea. — AFP

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