In March 2005, Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (or JASSM) cruise missile won the competition with Boeing’s SLAM-ER and the Taurus KEPD 350 for the AIR 5418 Follow-on Standoff Weapon (FOSOW) requirement. This marks the first international sale of this stealthy cruise missile, which was originally developed for the US Air Force and Navy. The contract includes production, integration and support, and was signed in September 2006. Total project cost was revealed as A$ 300 million (about USD$ 230 million), and production will be integrated into the existing line at the Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations facility in Troy, AL, USA.
The Australian government noted that “acquiring a long range air to surface missile has been publicly listed in Defence’s Capability Plan since 2001 and specific details were announced in August 2004,” and JASSMs are expected to be operational on Australia’s aircraft fleet by December 2009. Nevertheless, the purchase raised some controversy at home concerning its effect on the region, the reason it was chosen, and some of the choices that accompany its selection.
What’s the history behind this buy? Why did Australia make this particular choice, and choose the JASSM over the SLAM-ER? Is the regional destabilization controversy valid?