Defence Minister Peter Dutton has announced that Australia will buy the KONGSBERG Naval Strike Missile (NSM) to equip the Royal Australian Navy’s surface combatants, and the Lockheed Martin JASSM-ER for the Royal Australian Air Force’s air combat fleet.
The $3.5 billion announcement – made on 5 April at Sydney’s Fleet Base East – will see the NSM anti-ship missile acquired from 2024 to replace the surface-launched Harpoon missile aboard Hobart class destroyers and ANZAC class frigates in Navy service.
The announcement also confirmed the low-observable 900km-range Lockheed Martin AGM-158B Joint Air to Surface Strike Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) will be acquired – initially for the RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornets and later its F-35A Lightning IIs – with deliveries also expected to commence as soon as 2024.
“With Australia’s strategic environment becoming more complex and challenging, our ADF must be able to hold potential adversary forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance,” Mr Dutton said in a release. “These world-class strike weapon systems will equip our forces to better protect Australia’s maritime approaches and when necessary, contribute to coalition operations in our region.”
The RAAF is already an operator of the similar but shorter-ranged AGM-158A JASSM which was acquired in the early 2000s under Project AIR 5418, but this capability was believed to have been retired along with the last of the F/A-18A/B classic Hornets in 2021.
The low-observable NSM will effectively double the anti-ship range missile range of the older Harpoon. Like the Harpoon, the NSM is fired from deck-mounted cannister launchers so will not take up valuable vertical launch system tubes. The NSM is in service with the US Navy from is Independence class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), and is on order for the navies of Norway, Malaysia, and Canada.
A land-launched version of NSM is in service with Poland, while a mobile-launched version is being evaluated by the US Marine Corps from an uncrewed NEMSIS vehicle-mounted system, and has been proposed for the Australian Army from a modified Bushmaster chassis.