Australian combat jets will fire US hypersonics – Asia Times

Australia is set to test-launch a US fast missile from one of its combat planes in a bold move to regain its long-range attack skills.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF ) is scheduled to launch the US Air Force’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile ( HACM) test missile over Australian ranges this month, according to The War Zone.

The War Zone information that the HACM system, a cooperative effort between the US and Australia, aims to strengthen both nations ‘ atmosphere- launched hypersonic cruise missile capabilities. The missile, which has a two-stage design with a rocket booster and a scramjet cruiser, has been developed by Raytheon and Northrop Grumman since 2022, according to a US Government Accountability Office ( GAO ) report.

While The War Zone mentions that the rocket’s maximum acceleration is unknown, it is expected to surpass Mach 5, the threshold for fast rate. According to the GAO statement, flight tests may begin in October and continue until March 2027.

According to The War Zone, the determination to use RAAF F/A- 18F Super Hornets for testing was prompted by US testing infrastructure limitations. Woomera Test Range in Australia offers a safe and distant setting that is ideal for sensitive trials.

Additionally, it states that the USAF intends to incorporate HACM immediately into the F-15E Strike Eagle and possibly add it to other aircraft. The source notes that the program’s progress is carefully watched, as fast weapons are considered important for future higher- end conflicts, offering rapid, difficult- to- intercept strike capabilities.

The War Zone claims that this collaboration is a result of the US and Australia’s growing defense partnership, which is further strengthened by the AUKUS agreement, which includes cooperation in areas like unmanned aircraft and artificial intelligence.

Australia’s Defense Strategic Review 2023 ( DSR 2023 ) notes that Australia’s anti- access/area denial ( A2/AD ) strategy is often synonymous with long- range strike capability alongside undersea warfare and surface- to- air missiles ( SAM ). According to the DSR 2023, long-range strike capability is essential for a adversary’s northern approach to be in danger.

It makes note of the importance of having an A2/AD strategy in place to prevent an adversary from militarily coercing Australia and carrying out attacks against Australia without putting them in danger.

Further, in a May 2024 article in the peer- reviewed Journal of Strategic Studies, Fabian Hoffman argues that long- range strike weapons can become strategic deterrents by fulfilling counter- population, strategic interdiction, counter- leadership and counterforce roles.

Hoffman mentions that long-range counter-population strikes are carried out against civilian targets to lower an opponent’s morale. For strategic interdiction, he says that long- range strikes aim to destroy an adversary’s war- making capability, such as industrial infrastructure, supply chains, and transportation nodes.

He adds that counter- leadership long- range strikes aim to target and neutralize an adversary’s leadership. According to Hoffman, such strikes can annihilate hardened command and control nodes, and advances in hypersonic and sensor technology make them more effective against time-sensitive targets.

Hoffman points out that conventional counterforce long-range strikes can be used to “lock out” an opponent from the battlefield by overwhelming the use of force at the operational and tactical levels or to paralyze an adversary by knocking out critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance ( ISR ) nodes.

Since retiring its F-111s in 2010, Australia has lacked long-range strike capability. Additionally, it has canceled its plans to equip its Collins-class submarines with Tomahawk cruise missiles, leaving it with no such capability.

However, Andrew Davies claims in a March 2021 paper for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute ( ASPI ) that intermedia-range hypersonic cruise weapons may be a viable way to restore Australia’s long-range strike capabilities, which were previously provided by the F-111, despite the threat calculus during the Cold War being significantly different from today.

Davies mentions that Australia’s 1960s decision to acquire the F- 111 was driven by an assessed risk of aggression from Indonesia, which was countered by the capability to strike anywhere in the archipelago.

He asserts that there is a chance that China will respond in kind with its long-range strikes against Australian targets from forward-deployed systems if Australia uses long-range strike capabilities as part of its deterrence posture against China. &nbsp,

In a 2021 Lowy Institute analysis, Thomas Shugart claims that China can already strike Australia with long-range weapons like the DF- 26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles ( IRBM ), H6 K bombers armed with land-attack cruise missiles ( LACM) from Mischief Reef, and aerial-refueled H- 6N bombers armed with air-launched cruise missiles ( ALC M) from the Chinese mainland.

However, reviving Australia’s air- based long- range strike capabilities faces many challenges including cost, limited firepower, difficulty of achieving economy of scale and dependence on the US for crucial ISR capabilities.

Marcus Hellyer and Andrew Nicholls claim in a December 2022 ASPI paper that hypersonic weapons may be deceptively expensive, that each missile’s price tag rises with range, and that all of its exquisite components are non-recyclable. &nbsp,

Although hypersonics are more challenging to defeat than conventional ballistic or cruise missiles, Hellyer and Nicholls claim that they do n’t carry much explosives. The weapons will always cost money, despite the fact that scale reductions may eventually lower the cost of hypersonic missiles. Australia might not be able to launch these missiles in sufficient numbers to cause a decisive effect.

Veerle Nouwens and other authors note that while Australia is investing in ISR capabilities and ISR data fusion, its long-range strike capabilities are most likely to remain dependent on US support in an article published in January 2024 for the International Institute for Strategic Studies ( IISS).

Nouwens and others claim that Australia’s prospects for independent space-based ISR capabilities are uncertain because the government’s plans to launch four observation satellites have been targeted for budget cuts.