The Pentagon’s top science and technology official is pushing to integrate United States and Australian missile defense capabilities, in the latest sign of the importance the Defense Department places on Australia in its efforts to counter China.
“I have mentioned this to my Australian partners when we were together about a month ago this summer, and they were very excited,” Heidi Shyu, the under secretary of defense for research and engineering, told reporters Tuesday at an NDIA event in Washington, D.C.. “So one of the next steps is: They’re coming here to meet with me in September. We’re going to start to flesh out the details. We’re going to start fleshing out the details. So there’s significant interest from MDA and the Army. The next step is bringing the Australians in to figure out at what level do we integrate our systems,” she said.
Shyu spoke less than two weeks after the Biden administration announced a new trilateral accord with South Korea and Japan for ballistic missile defense.
” In mid-August our three countries carried out a missile warning test to share missile data in real time,” said the White House. That agreement is more squarely aimed at North Korean missiles, but that same alliance–and potentially threat warning capabilities and practices developed through it–could play a key role in a potential conflict with China.
U.S. officials and others have been warning that China has expanded its nuclear and non-nuclear missile capabilities. “After [Chinese President] Xi Jinping elevated China’s missile forces into a full branch of the People’s Liberation Army in 2015, the number of missile launchers deployed by the PRC has increased rapidly,” notes a July report from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation.
“The PLARF is now on track to deploy more than 1,000 ballistic missile launchers by 2028, including at least 507 nuclear-capable launchers, 342 to 432 conventional launchers, and 252 dual-capable launchers. At least 320 solid-fueled fixed ICBM silos and 30 liquid-fueled fixed ICBM silos are currently under construction in addition to China’s growing arsenal of mobile ICBM launchers. And this tally does not even touch launchers operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy.”
The United States is also pursuing a three-way technology partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom called AUKUS, which is focused first on the co-development of a submarine but also on the co-development of other emerging technologies. Shyu said she’s been working to plan out what that three-way technology partnership will look like.
“The path that I propose is linking back together to show a portfolio of capabilities,” Shyu said. “That will be coming out soon,” she said, hinting at a possible White House announcement this fall.
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