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Thales Australia invests $6 million in sovereign GWEO capability

Thales Australia could manufacture the booster for the surface-launched version of Lockheed Martin’s Long-Range Air-Surface Missile (LRASM). Image: Thales Via Lockheed Martin

Thales Australia has announced a $6 million investment in advanced manufacturing equipment at the Commonwealth-owned Mulwala munitions facility in regional New South Wales, to rapidly accelerate sovereign guided weapons manufacturing capability.

Thales’s investment in new large-scale preparation and mixing equipment will enable a 500% increase in the size of rocket motors able to be manufactured at Mulwala, supporting production of advanced guided weapons and hypersonic weapons.

It represents a significant acceleration and scaling up of Australia’s guided weapons manufacturing capability to produce large rocket motors essential for advanced guided missiles. EX2 understands that Defence will be making key decisions on its sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) enterprise before the end of this calendar year following a Request for Information (RFI) which closed in August 2021..

“Thales Australia is a strategic partner of the Australian Defence Force and we are committed to investing in the resources and technology necessary to support the ADF and Australian Government’s ambition to accelerate the creation of a Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise, boosting skilled jobs and helping secure Australia’s sovereign defence capabilities,” said Thales Australia’s Chief Executive, Chris Jenkins.

Building on Thales’s 25-year in-country legacy of manufacturing world-leading sovereign munitions for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and strategic Defence Industry partners, the new equipment will deliver a step-change in Australia’s sovereign capacity to produce guided munitions, enabling the manufacture of more than 90% of the ADF’s current strategic rocket propulsion inventory and delivering the capability to manufacture future guided and hypersonic weapon systems.

Thales Australia has signed an agreement with Adelaide SME Southern Launch whose two rocket launch sites at Whalers Way and Koonibba in South Australia will be used to discreetly test Thales’s advanced rocket motors and guided munitions. Southern Launch’s own high-technology supply chain will build missile and rocket motor bodies for these new weapons.

The company has also signed an MoU with Varley Rafael Australia (VRA), a joint venture between Israeli company Rafael and NSW-based Varley, to explore future manufacture of variants of the Australian Army’s Rafael-made SPIKE LR2 guided anti-armour missile. The Australian Army has already selected the SPIKE to arm its Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles and Thales Australia and VRA are exploring manufacture of the missile’s rocket motor and warhead as well as other variants of the weapon for different vehicles and applications.

Thales Australia is the nation’s largest manufacturer of munitions, propellant and military explosives and manages the government owned contractor operated (GOCO) sites in Benalla, Victoria and Mulwala, New South Wales, employing over 650 skilled personnel in the development and manufacture of munitions systems for the ADF and allied forces. The company also has more than 600 Australian companies in its munitions supply chain.

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