Royal Australian Navy warships will be better protected against the threat of anti-ship missiles following a decision that opens the way to equip the ships with an upgraded version of the Evolved Seasparrow missile system announced Australia's Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston.
Australia has elected to continue its participation in the NATO Seasparrow Consortium Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) program that commenced in 1990.
Senator Johnston said the First Pass Approval for the upgraded ‘Block 2’ version of the Evolved Seasparrow missile would lead to a significant boost in Australia’s ability to defend its fleet against the next generation of anti-ship missile threats by delivering a more sophisticated ship self-defence missile to the Navy. The Block 2 upgrade will primarily focus on developing improvements to the missile’s guidance system.
“The government is committed to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of Royal Australian Navy operations. The upgrade of the Evolved Seasparrow missile system follows on from a number of complementary Anzac class frigate upgrade projects." said Senator Johnston, "The Block 2 missiles would be fitted to ANZAC Class Frigates and Hobart Class Destroyers".
The government will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the NATO Seasparrow Consortium and funding of around $300 million has been allocated to support Australia’s participation in the development of the missile upgrade.
Participation in the consortium at this level strengthens Australia’s international relations with NATO, in particular with the United States, through Australia sharing the risks and costs associated with developing the upgraded Block 2 missile. “These arrangements will also offer significant opportunities for Australian industry to compete for work in the development, production, integration and through-life support of the upgraded Block 2 missiles." said Senator Johnston, "The government expects to make a final decision on procurement of upgraded ESSMs around 2020 and is keen to ensure that every ESSM Block 2 missile that is eventually produced will provide work for Australian industry".
The countries that form the NATO Seasparrow Consortium are: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States