Australia saw the signing of a strategic agreement by Aerojet Rocketdyne and NIOA on 7 November that aims to create a multi-user rocket motors facility as a sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) enterprise. 

A key recommendation of the Defence Strategic Review was to replenish GWEO stocks and establish sovereign missile and munition manufacturing factories in Australia, with $2.5bn earmarked for the requirement by the Albanese Government. 

Enhancing forward deployed logistics and co-production initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly with Australia’s allies, holds importance for any strategic approach.

The new agreement is intended to lead to the manufacture of rocket motors, boosters and warheads from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s line all within Australian territory, boosting domestic economic activity and providing robust defence procurement pathways in an era of uncertain trade pathways. 

The strategic alignment of the key components within the rocket motor, warhead, and booster supply chains can potentially result in cost efficiencies, ensuring the continued production levels required to support and develop essential expertise. 

Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris company, will provide intellectual property for a wide range of propulsion systems, said Aerojet Rocketdyne President Ross Niebergall. 

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As part of this agreement, NIOA, a fully Australian owned company, plans to develop a rocket motor facility that will be flexible in adapting to new strategic partners in the future, said NIOA Group CEO Robert Nioa. 

GWEO base in Australia is building

In May 2023, acting on another recommendation from the Defence Strategic Review, the Albanese Government of Australia appointed its inaugural Chief of the GWEO Group, Air Vice-Marshal Leon Phillips OAM, entrusted with responsibility in leading the GWEO Enterprise, reporting directly to the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

Under the umbrella of GWEO investment, the Defence Strategic Review recommended enhancing and broadening Australia’s range of weapons systems, such as land-based maritime strike and long-range missile launchers. 

In this vein, BAE Systems Australia and European missile group MBDA announced a collaboration agreement at the start of March to establish its sovereign GWEO capability, with initial areas of collaboration to focus on the weaponisation of BAE Systems’ Strix Uncrewed Aerial System.

On 5 April, Lockheed Martin was selected as a Strategic Industry Partner in the development of the Australian GWEO enterprise, with its Missiles and Fire Control division from Texas working with Lockheed Martin Australia.