Australia to build guided missiles to boost defense capacity

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during the opening of Raytheon Australia's Centre for Joint Integration in Adelaide, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Australia announced Wednesday it would begin building its own guided missiles in close collaboration with the U.S. as it seeks to boost its defense capabilities. Citing the "changing global environment, Morrison said it would partner with a weapons manufacturer to build the missiles in a plan that would create thousands of jobs as well as export opportunities. (Morgan Sette/AAP Image via AP)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during the opening of Raytheon Australia's Centre for Joint Integration in Adelaide, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Australia announced Wednesday it would begin building its own guided missiles in close collaboration with the U.S. as it seeks to boost its defense capabilities. Citing the "changing global environment, Morrison said it would partner with a weapons manufacturer to build the missiles in a plan that would create thousands of jobs as well as export opportunities. (Morgan Sette/AAP Image via AP) (AAP Image)

WELLINGTON – Australia announced Wednesday it would begin building its own guided missiles in close collaboration with the U.S. as it seeks to boost its defense capabilities.

The news comes amid growing unease in the Pacific region about China's increasing assertiveness and military abilities.

Citing the "changing global environment,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would partner with a weapons manufacturer to build the missiles in a plan that would create thousands of jobs as well as export opportunities.

Morrison said it would initially spend 1 billion Australian dollars ($761 million) on the plan as part of a huge 10-year investment in defense and the defense industry.

“Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe,” Morrison said.

It has been decades since Australia last manufactured advanced missiles, and it currently relies on importing them from allies including the U.S. Australia does currently build a decoy rocket aimed at disrupting incoming missiles.

Michael Shoebridge, the director of defense, strategy and national security at the independent think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the announcement was welcome news and filled a strategic gap.

“It’s being driven by the two Cs, China and COVID,” Shoebridge said.