Dec 1, 2020 - World

U.S. and Australia to develop hypersonic missiles

A RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) F/A-18F Super Hornet conducts a 'show of force' as part of Exercise Nigrum Pugio on October 14, 2020 in Townsville, Australia.

A Royal Australian Air Force Super Hornet on exercise Nigrum Pugio in Australia in October. The hypersonic missiles will be carried by such planes. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

The Australian government announced Tuesday it will partner with the U.S. to make hypersonic cruise missiles to rival those being developed by China and Russia.

Details: Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement the government would "continue to invest in advanced capabilities" to give the Australian Defense Force "more options to deter aggression against Australia's interests."

  • The government has "earmarked" AU$9.3 billion ($6.8 billion) for "high-speed long-range strike and missile defence, including hypersonic development, test and evaluation," Reynolds said.
  • She didn't say how much it would cost to develop the air-launched, long-range missiles or when they would be rolled out, but the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the government aims to start testing prototypes "within months."

What they're saying: Both Reynolds and Michael Kratsios, acting under secretary of the U.S. Defense for Research and Engineering, called the joint Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) project "game-changing."

"This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the U.S. and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability."
ā€” Kratsios' statement

Of note: The move could further inflame tensions with the Chinese government, which has been at loggerheads with the Trump administration and Australian officials this year on a range of issues, notably the origins of the pandemic.

  • This week, Australia and China have clashed over a Chinese government official's doctored Twitter image depicting an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.
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