Army missile system on target in first firing

3 August 2023

The Army tactical missile system (ATACMS) has been fired in Australia for the first time, demonstrating the type of capability Australia will need to defend its northern borders.

The ATACMS, fired as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre, is a US-made long-range tactical precision surface-to-surface missile, combining advanced technology and intelligence-driven targeting. 

1st Brigade Commander Nick Foxall said capabilities such as this would have a big impact on the ability to deny access to enemies as the Army's focus in the north shifts to littoral operations.

“Army is entering a new period, and exercises like Talisman Sabre, where we work with our partners and new capabilities, only enhance the defence of Australia,” Commander Foxall said.

The Defence Strategic Review and the Government’s National Defence Statement response identified the importance of defending Australia and its immediate region, and to deter through denial any adversary’s attempts to project power through its northern approaches.

Far-reaching capabilities such as the ATACMS, able to hit a land-based target with speed and precision over long distances, will be needed to meet the challenge of denying access to such a vast region.

The Talisman Sabre shoot was dynamic and brought several pieces together to deliver the ATACMS missile on target in the Bradshaw Field Training Area in the Northern Territory.

First, two M142 high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) were loaded into two US Air Force MC-130J Talon aircraft, which took off from Williamson Airfield in Queensland's Shoalwater Bay Training Area, headed west towards a red-dirt airfield in Delamere, NT.

Within moments of touchdown, the HIMARS proceeded past the runway to its designated firing point and fired the missile before reboarding the Talon for immediate departure. 

Major John Ronayne, the Officer in Command Long Range Strike on the ground at the Delamere firing point, said it was both a rehearsal for employing the system and a demonstration of capability. 

“This event represents how the alliance can employ and coordinate these types of systems across vast distances as part of a multi-domain strike capability,” he said.

Hundreds of kilometres away, on a ridge overlooking the target point, joint fires observers and terminal attack controllers from 101st Battery, 8th/12th Battalion,  Royal Australian Regiment, alongside partners from the US Marine Rotation Force - Darwin, observed the surface-to-surface missile thundering into the Australian outback and destroying the designated target.

Government direction in response to Defence Strategic Review recommendations supported accelerated acquisition and expansion of  HIMARS and associated missiles to contribute to enhanced combat power through long-range fires.



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