The US State Department has approved the sale of the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Expeditionary (SURTASS-E) mission systems for Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) to the Government of Australia for an estimated cost of $207m.

The proposed sale includes a shore processing mission system, spare acoustic array, containers, communication parts and support equipment, software, publications, training, US Government and contractor engineering support, and other logistics and program support.

This purchase will enhance shared maritime security and assist the country in developing and maintaining a solid self-defence capability.

The proposed sale will also support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States, as Australia is a critical ally in the Western Pacific region.

The country’s strategic location contributes to ensuring peace and economic stability, and it is vital to the US national interest to assist its ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready defence capability.

The militarisation of the South China Sea, with China having militarised at least three of the islands in the disputed waterway and claiming a significant portion of it, has led other countries in the region, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, to improve their naval capabilities to deter China, according to GlobalData’s “The Global Submarine Market 2023-2033” report.

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James Marques, an aerospace, defence, and security analyst at GlobalData, provided his take on the matter, “China is slowly trying to build the reach and infrastructure to spread out further than its immediate seas. It’s looking to make a deal to refuel and supply its navy ships at the Solomon Islands close to Australia.

With such a large sea area to cover, the Australians must constantly ensure they prioritise anti-submarine capabilities. The incident with the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic also has everyone thinking about undersea security, from drones and sabotage.”

The principal contractors for the sale will be Lockheed Martin-Syracuse, located in Syracuse, NY, and Lockheed Martin-Manassas, based in Manassas, VA.

The sale of the SURTASS-E mission systems is expected to enhance Australia’s maritime surveillance capabilities significantly, and with this purchase, the country is set to maintain a strong defence posture and contribute to regional stability.