WASHINGTON, March 16 (CNN) - The US State Department has approved Australia’s request to buy up to 220 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, making it only the second US ally to obtain the US-made weapon after the United Kingdom.
According to a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the deal will cost as much as 1.3 billion Australian dollars ($895 million), including maintenance and logistical support.
“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to interoperate with US maritime forces and other allied forces as well as its ability to contribute to missions of mutual interest,” the statement added.
The deal’s approval comes the same week the US, Australia and the United Kingdom provided more details of AUKUS, their three-way pact to share technology and resources to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Under that deal, the US will sell at least three Virginia-class submarines to Australia. Additionally, Australia and the United Kingdom will build their own fleets of new nuclear-powered subs to boost the allies’ capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, where China has been building its military assets.
First deployed in the Gulf War in 1991, Tomahawk missiles fly at extremely low altitudes at high subsonic speeds and are controlled by several mission-tailored guidance systems. According to the US Navy, they can be launched from submarines made by the US and the UK, as well as from US Navy ships.
So far only the UK has bought Tomahawks from the US, but recently Japan announced its intention to buy hundreds of the missiles, which cover a distance of more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), to boost its defense capabilities.