Martin’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) has been in the news for months because of its prominent role helping Ukraine inflict serious damage on invading Russian forces. For fear of further destabilising the situation, the U.S. is only supplying the version that can fire missiles over a distance of 80km rather than longer range variants that have the potential to strike deep into Russian territory.

The Australian Army intends purchasing HIMARS, with a notification to Congress of a possible sale published on May 26 this year. This is for 20 systems and a number of associated items of equipment, including Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles – regular and extended range – and also 10 large Army Tactical Missiles (ATACMS) that have a mass of 1,670kg and a range of 300km. The cost of the package is around $500 million and – slightly surprisingly – Australia does not yet appear to have placed the order.

HIMARS is in such demand that on 1 December, Lockheed Martin received another US $430 million contract to continue full rate production of the system. This will see the company continue to deliver 96 truck mounted launch systems and 10,000 GMLRS missiles per year. This is to meet the demands of the U.S. Army and international customers. The order backlog at the moment is about four years, although since all sales are via the Foreign Military Sales system it is the U.S. government rather than Lockheed Martin that will decide the priorities for deliveries.

The production home of HIMARS is at the town of Cambden in very rural southern Arkansas. The huge site used to be a major historic munitions manufacturing facility for the USN before being rented to Lockheed Martin, which also manufacturers other missiles such as Patriot on site. The company assembles the 6 wheel, 5 tonne FMTV trucks from basic components, installs the launch system; attaches the armoured cabin from another supplier and fits the electronic fire control system in it – and in a separate building also manufactures the missiles it fires, the most prolific being the GMLRS.

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Kym Bergmann
Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


  1. Seeing that the South Koreans have a locally derived HIMARS, and Hanwah being keen as mustard. Should Defence run the ruler over the mutually beneficial aspects of a probably locally built effort?

  2. Australia buying HIMARS MLRS from the US would be overkill for the Australian Army’s typical future Mideast-Afghanistan counter-insurgency type missions.

    Aus HIMARS armed with 300km ATACMS or 500km Precision Strike Missile (PSM)* options would be too short-ranged as anti-China deterrents in ASBM or SRBM roles (eg. against future Chinese Pacific island bases (eg. on the Solomons). * see .

    My humble recommendation is that a future Australian Army (or RAAF?) Strategic Rocket Force should be thinking more in terms of buying 20 TELs for in development US (LRHWs) a type of inflight manoeuvrable MRBM/ASBM with a range around 3,000km.

    An Australian Strategic Rocket Force would better deter Chinese forces in the 2030s, once China has subdued Taiwan leaving China freed up to impose a Southeast Asia/Oceania Sphere of (hard-power obtained) Influence.

    • Thanks for that thought. An even longer range system than HIMARS has its attractions, but they aren’t mutually exclusive. HIMARS is not very expensive and Army can acquire a number of them soonish while also planning for future capabilities. An Australian sovereign long range rocket of the type that you suggest is well within the capabilities of local industry – it would just need the political will to get it done, possibly as part of the GWEO enterprise.

  3. Hi Kym

    Indeed we could get HIMARS soon. But has Australia ever had a need for rocket artillery (of 50-500km range)? We are already getting self propelled gun K9 variants (max ammunition range 54km) for the Army.

    Granted HIMARS may be good for conventional warfare on the Australian continent (against Chinese forces – but then too late) in Indonesia? Even Australia fighting US or UK wars in the Northern Hemisphere never went close to Australia requiring 50+km artillery.

    The “Science” of Arms Buying Being Underwritten By Politics…

    “soonish” or nice-to-have won’t defend Australia against the the obvious threat. Long range missiles of 3,000+km armed with nuclear warheads we could buy from Israel may make more strategic sense against the clear China threat.

    On Australia developing its own long (500+km) range missiles. Weapons systems are fiendishly more expensive and missed deadlines…to locally develop (just look at Collins and mainly built in Australia Attack class program).

    Even the UK needed to buy its Polaris and then Trident “ICBM solution” from the US because it was too difficult and expensive to build Blue Streak. Israel bought ballistic missiles from France. In turn Australia buying ICBMs from Israel may make sense by 2030. Israel has been desperate to amortise the development costs of its nuclear arsenal for years – see .

    Meanwhile the US would prefer Australia weren’t nuclear armed. Otherwise we might not be such a loyal coalition “partner” in its far off wars. In that regard SSNs from the UK not US, may make more sense.

    Cheers Pete

    • You make some interesting points. To the best of my knowledge, no country has ever sold a nuclear weapon to another so I’m not sure Israel would be keen to set a precedent. If they did, what would stop North Korea and or Pakistan selling nuclear warheads to Iran and Syria?

  4. Hi Kym

    Selling a nuclear weapon is more a process of increasing technology transfer. Payment is more publically by exporting/bartering nuclear explosives (aka fissure materials like Tritium. Plutonium and HEU) than a one off dollar transaction. Although the UK does pay annual rent for the US Trident D5 nuclear missiles.

    I could write a book about nuclear weapons deals and possibly will – partly because the Commonwealth of A would prefer I don’t write about other things.

    1. The USSR greatly assisted China’s nuclear bomb effort –
    “The Soviet Union provided assistance in the early Chinese program by sending advisers to help in the facilities devoted to fissile material production[22] and, in October 1957, agreed to provide a prototype bomb, missiles, and related technology. The Chinese, who preferred to import technology and components to developing them within China, exported uranium to the Soviet Union, and the Soviets sent two R-2 missiles in 1958.[23]”

    “The Americans disclosed the details of nine of their nuclear weapon designs: the Mark 7, Mark 15/39, Mark 19, Mark 25, Mark 27, Mark 28, Mark 31, Mark 33 and Mark 34. In return, the British provided the details of seven of theirs, including Green Grass; Pennant, the boosted device which had been detonated in the Grapple Z test on 22 August; Flagpole, the two-stage device scheduled for 2 September; Burgee, scheduled for 23 September; and the three-stage Halliard 3.”

    Instead of dollar or pound payment the Brits and US “paid” by barter – that is handing over
    fissile materials worth $Billions. See “Special nuclear materials barter” at
    “Under the agreement 5.37 tonnes of UK-produced plutonium was sent to the US in exchange for 6.7 kg of tritium and 7.5 tonnes of HEU between 1960 and 1979. A further 470 kg of plutonium was swapped between the US and the UK for reasons that remain classified.[101] Some of the UK-produced plutonium was used in 1962 by the US for the only known nuclear weapon test of reactor-grade plutonium.[102]”

    And this isn’t yet touching how France “sold” the “Bomb” to Israel, how China sold H-Bomb technology to Pakistan, how Russia sold H-Bomb technology to India, how Israel sold A-Bombs to South Africa. etc.

    Of course I would need to situate all of this for public consumption in a work titled “How Australia could “Buy” Nuclear Weapons” 🙂

    Cheers Pete

    • Thanks – that makes for some interesting additional reading. To that you can add Pakistan and China assisting North Korea. Yes, I agree there is a very lengthy history of countries helping each other out with the finer details of warhead production – the basic physics is straightforward and you can go to the internet and public libraries for basic bomb designs – along with the elaborate industrialisation required to assemble all of the different materials required in the right quantities. As Iran has discovered, there are several weak points in the production process such as the need to gather a very large number of gas centrifuges and accessing krytons and other fiddly bits. I was interested in your suggestion that we could access Israeli technology – wouldn’t it be easier to do that more directly with the US and the UK via AUKUS?

  5. Hi Kym

    I have a hunch the US program sharing a few nuclear weapons with some lucky Western European countries (and with Turkey) is a subject for discussion under AUKUS – see

    The delivery platforms are joint strike fighters (eg. F-16s increasingly F-35As) armed with tactical B61 nuclear free-fall bombs. “In case of war, the United States has told NATO allies the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would no longer be in effect”.

    Any sharing with Australia would need to involve much longer range delivery platforms eg. B-21 bombers if sold to Australia (possible publicity 2023), possibly Aus and US developed ICBMs by (say) 2033, not to mention SSNs that could be hypersonic cruise missile capable (2040s).

    In that regard to longer range platforms see indicates:

    “Historically, the shared nuclear weapon delivery systems were not restricted to bombs. Greece used Nike-Hercules Missiles….PGM-19 Jupiter medium-range ballistic missiles were shared with Italian air force units and Turkish units with U.S. dual key systems to enable the warheads.[9] PGM-17 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missiles were forward deployed to the UK with RAF crews.”

    The beauty of Aus/US ICBMs is that US personnel at some 100 silo? missile area of say 200 square km maybe just south of Alice Springs could have dual key/code systems with Aus rocketeers to enable the warheads and fire the missiles. US dual key control re Aus B-21s and SSNs may be doable.

    Cheers Pete


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