The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has agreed to continue its support of Raytheon’s Evolved Sea Sparrow missile system (ESSM) upgrade, as part of the Nato Sea Sparrow Consortium.
The upgraded ESSM version, which will be deployed by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), has been developed to protect vessels against advanced missile threats, while delivering a sophisticated ship self-defence missile.
As part of the plan, Australia will allocate $300m for the missile modernisation programme.
Australian Defence Minister Senator David Johnston said that the move is intended to ensure the safety and effectiveness of RAN’s operations.
"The upgrade of the Evolved Sea Sparrow missile system follows on from a number of complementary Anzac-class frigate upgrade projects," Johnston said.
Primarily focused on developing enhancements to the missile’s guidance system, the block two upgrade of the ESSM is to be integrated into RAN’s Anzac-class frigates and Hobart-class destroyers.
"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 two missiles," Johnston added.
"The government expects to make a final decision on [the] procurement of upgraded ESSMs around 2020. The government is keen to ensure that every ESSM block two missile that is eventually produced will provide work for Australian industry."
Capable of being launched without any prior warm-up, the missile system can strike high-speed, highly manoeuvrable anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as threats from surface and low-velocity air areas, while boosting performance against smaller, sea-skimming targets.
The Nato Sea Sparrow consortium comprises Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the US.
Image: The Royal Australian Navy’s Anzac-class HMAS Warramunga. Photo: courtesy of BotMultichillT.