For the first time in its history, the Army will have the ability to accurately hit surface targets hundreds of kilometres away with guided missiles.
The high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) will be acquired as the first land-based, surface-to-surface missile system, which will be a component of Defence’s future long-range strike capability.
The American-designed Lockheed Martin system has a range of 300km, with plans to make munitions capable of even longer distances.
Major Stephen Bowles from Fires Modernisation-Army said HIMARS could eventually be a primary, combined-arms weapon.
“They’re impressive, they’re battle-tested. We can see them being used in Ukraine and they are constantly being exercised in the Indo-Pacific,” Major Bowles said.
Seeing them live-fire during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 at Shoalwater Bay, Major Bowles said Australia had big enough training areas to support firing the long-range ammunition.
“It looked lethal, looked impressive and was just a rapid insertion,” he said.
“Shoot and move. It was something that I’d never seen before, beyond any sort of live-fire engagement I’ve ever seen in Defence.”
The artillery contains a launcher module with either six guided rockets or a single tactical missile, with the six-wheel-based chassis having all-terrain manoeuvrability.
“It’s survivable because you can shoot and move far quicker and use all existing roads,” Major Bowles said.
“It’s lighter as well. We can get it on to LHDs [landing helicopter docks] and especially C-130s and C-17 aircraft for transporting.
“What we’re looking at is a truck that carries an integrated launcher-module system.
“So for operators, any of the issues they will come across will most likely be simple, mechanical ones.”
With the ADF receiving 20 of the wheel-based launchers, the Royal Australian Artillery (RAA) will increase its force.
“We do plan to grow the RAA by one battery in phase one of the acquisition,” Major Bowles said.
“In later phases we’re looking to grow to an additional regiment over the next decade.
“It’ll reinvent how Army fights.
“We currently operate by fires supporting manoeuvre.
“After HIMARS, it’ll potentially be manoeuvre supporting fire.”
The initial delivery is due in 2025, with the final operating capability planned for 2029.
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