Breathlessly repeated by large sections of the Australian media, the January 5 joint statement by Defence Minister Richard Marles and Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy is old news – literally.  Prime contractor for the Naval Strike Missile – Norway’s Kongsberg – announced on April 5, 2022, that they had been selected to equip the RAN’s Anzac and Hobart class warships.  On May 25, 2022, the US Congress was notified publicly, in writing, of an Australian request to purchase Lockheed Martin’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

What would have constituted news was an announcement that the Government had selected the coastal defence version of the NSM, paired with a Bushmaster vehicle from Thales Australia, in a system known as the Strikemaster. Or that it will equip the hopelessly outgunned Arafura class offshore patrol vessels. Or that local industry will develop a HIMARS-compatible long-range guided rocket.

To shift everything into the realm of the Theatre Of The Absurd, was a claim by Minister Conroy that precise costing information could not be disclosed for reasons of national security.  This is presumably a line delivered by an over-zealous security obsessed official from the secretive Department of Defence, because all relevant information is publicly available:

  • The complete cost of the HIMARS package for Australia is a “not to exceed” figure of US $385 million (AU $563). This is for twenty (20) M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS); thirty (30) M30A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS); thirty (30) Alternative Warhead (AW) Pods with Insensitive Munitions Propulsion Systems (IMPS); thirty (30) M31A2 GMLRS Unitary (GMLRS-U) High Explosive Pods with IMPS; thirty (30) XM403 Extended Range (ER)-GMLRS AW Pods; thirty (30) EM404 ER GMLRS Unitary Pods; and ten (10) M57 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).  Also included are Reduced Range Practice Rocket Pods (RRPRP); Vehicular Intercom System (AN/VIC-3) 3-Station; radio communication mounts; machine gun mounts; battle management system vehicle integration kits; wheel guards; ruggedized laptops; training equipment publications; spare and repair parts; support equipment; tools; test equipment; technical data; U.S. Government and Contractor support; technical and logistical support services; and other related elements of program and logistic support.
  • The cost of a basic GMLRS rocket is AU $60,000.
  • The cost in 2012 of an ATACMS was US $2 million; with inflation taken into account an ATACMS today is around AU $4.5 million.
  • The unit cost of a Naval Strike Missile is US $2.194 million / AU $3.21 million.

To suggest that revealing these numbers is a threat to national security is ridiculous.  The US procurement system is quite transparent and the view is taken in Washington that taxpayers are fully entitled to know the cost of equipment – the complete opposite of Australia.

Even without the benefit of publicly available information, security analysts in Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang are more than capable of figuring out the cost of things for themselves.  In the case of the GMLRS, for example, it’s hardly rocket science.  Each one is made up of a rocket motor, a navigation unit, a basic flight control system, and a warhead.  There are costs for assembly, handling and storage – but these are easy to calculate.

This government was rightly critical of the failure of the Coalition to deliver improvements in Defence capability, despite plenty of announcements.  On present indications they are no better.  Minister Conroy in particular does no one any favours by going along with the obsessive and pointless secrecy that has become the hallmark of how the Defence Department deals with everything.

With procurement on hold and causing damage to Australian industry while we wait for the outcome of the Defence Strategic Review, some people must have thought it would be smart to re-announce stuff during the summer holidays in the hope of fooling the public.  That might work at first, but it’s not a viable long-term strategy – as the previous government discovered.

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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. The Old Made in the USA,must be value for money Defence Dept. thinking. If we had taken up the Sth Korean offer of the Chunmoo system ,which we got all the technology to go with it ,we would probably be very near acquiring the capability now.There is no doubt that the HIMARS is a very impressive bit of kit but with the only supplier being Lockheed in the U.S. and so many users ,it may be a problem of who gets priority ,the U.S. military or it’s allies and we all know what that answer will be…

    • Poland order Chunmoo about 5 months ago and have already started receiving the first of their systems because unlike us they weren’t prepared to wait for four years. As I have written previously, Hanwha has offered to transfer all of the technology – including the guided rockets – meaning that Australia could be producing endless quantities of weapons rather than relying on overseas supply chains.

      • Exactly my point. It is amazing that So many opportunities go begging because of the slavish obsession to buy US equipment to the detriment of our strategic needs all because of politics.

  2. Exactly my point . How many times has the ADFs capability been sacrificed because of the slavish obsession with buying equipment because it’s made in the USA despite being inadequate or incompatible with our strategic needs.

  3. How on earth are we going to replace the ammo for these things? Look at the rate of fire in Ukraine. Can you imagine the wait in a major conflict for replacement. Why did we not go with South Korea who would share their technology?

    • These are very good questions. I thought the point of the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) enterprise was to build Australian sovereign capabilities. South Korea is open to genuine technology transfer based on local manufacturing.

  4. So I’m not sure who the dopey bugger is that’s advising but I can’t believe being surrounded by water we don’t have navel strike weapons fitted to trucks

  5. Hmmm, if hostile Chinese forces are within HIMARS or NSM range, isnt it all over ? Wouldn’t getting our airbases (and critical infrastructure) the same mobile Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile systems Uncle Sam has on GUAM, while grabbing more Super Hornets, Poseidons & Multirole Tankers (in the time it’s gonna take to develop LRASM wing mounts for them) be more appropriate in the short term ? Only weapons that appear worth waiting for are the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – ‘XR’ ( alleged ‘Extreme Range’ greater than 1,000nm – 1,850 km ) B21s, armed Ghost Bats and Ghost Sharks.

    • I think we have to prepare for a range of contingencies. HIMARS equipped with PrSM has an official, legal, range of 499km. In reality it will go further than that. The same can be said of NSM because range can be a tradeoff between payload and the amount of propellant that can be carried. Once the AWDs have been upgraded to Aegis Baseline 9, that – combined with SM-3 – will give the RAN an ABM capability. Since most of our critical infrastructure is on – or near – the coast, that’s part of a solution.

  6. All true, ideas about sprinkling NSM ‘Strikemasters’ among key island chains are definitely worth exploring…anyways thanks for your prompt response Kym.


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