The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk cruise missile from the ship's bow. The United States agreed to sell Australia up to 220 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday. File Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/UPI
March 17 (UPI) -- The United States announced on Thursday the approval of an $895 million sale of Tomahawk missiles and supporting equipment to Australia as the United States and its allies continue to beef up its military presence in the Indo-Pacific.
Australia will have the option of purchasing as many as 220 Tomahawk missiles with the State Department saying it was in the country's "national interest" to make sure Australia can defend itself.
The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile is a long-range cruise missile that can be launched from land or sea, often used for deep land attack warfare against an enemy.
"The proposed sale will improve Australia's capability to interoperate with U.S. maritime forces and other allied forces as well as its ability to contribute to missions of mutual interest," a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
"By deploying the Tomahawk Weapon System, Australia will contribute to global readiness and enhance the capability of U.S. Forces operating alongside them globally. Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense."
Australian Defense Minister Pat Conroy said he saw the Tomahawk missiles more as a deterrent against aggressors with growing instability in the region caused by the continued emergence of China.
"We face the greatest strategic uncertainty since 1945," Conroy told Australia's ABC News. "We face a regional arms race and a responsible government such as ours is dealing with that by investing in the best possible capability.
"This is how we promote peace and stability, by putting question marks in any potential adversary's mind."
The deal comes after U.S. President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gathered in San Diego earlier this week for a meeting of the trilateral AUKUS defense partnership with Britain.
The three nations plan to build an armada of underwater attack vessels, which would launch first in Australia "with the aim of working hand in glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific."