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Australia accelerates missile upgrades

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Australia has accelerated plans to buy long-range strike missiles years ahead of schedule because of growing threats in the region.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said yesterday the accelerated re-arming of fighter jets and warships would cost AUD3.5 billion and increase Australia’s deterrence to potential adversaries. “When we look at what’s happened in the Ukraine, there is the prospect of Russian going into Poland or somewhere else in Europe. That would be a repeat of the 1930s and that’s not something that we should allow to happen,” Dutton told Seven Network television.

Under a revised timetable, FA-18F Super Hornet fighter jets would be armed with improved United States (US)-manufactured air-to-surface missiles by 2024, three years earlier than planned. The JASSM-ER missiles would enable fighters to engaged targets at a range of 900 kilometres.

Australia’s ANZAC Class frigates and Hobart Class destroyers would be equipped with Norwegian-made Kongsberg NSM missiles by 2024, five years ahead of schedule. The missiles would more than double the warships’ strike range.

The new timetable comes after the Solomon Islands announced a draft security pact with China. Under its terms, China could send military personnel to the South Pacific islands to help maintain order and for other reasons.

Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton stands next to an anti-ship missile as he addresses industry representatives. PHOTO: AP