Australia has opted to arm its F/A-18 jet fighters with U.S. long-range cruise missiles to help offset a capability vacuum created by the retirement of its F-111 strike aircraft. The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) would be introduced starting in 2009, and would also be used on new Joint Strike Fighters set for arrival in Australia in 2013. The Government announcement did not specify how many missiles were being acquired.
JASSM being acquired is the most powerful of the three missiles the Royal Australian Air Force was looking it. It has a range of more than 250 miles - four times the distance of any missile currently available to the RAAF. Each missile weighs about 2,000 pounds and costs more than $400,000. The Australian said the buy was expected to roil Indonesia, which has warned its acquisition could spark a regional arms race. But Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said "acquisition of long-range missiles does not represent a change in Australia's defense posture and capability planning." With only one aerial refueling, one of Australia's 71 F/A-18s could strike Thailand; with multiple refueling it could strike anywhere in Asia.