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Joining the War Club: Australia’s HIMARS Purchase

Another needless, fatuous endeavour; another irresponsible drain on the public purse; another expression that the military-industrial complex Down Under is thriving in all its insidious stupidity. But Australia’s purchase of HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) batteries from the United States can be put down to loneliness – or the feeling of being left out. And history shows that loneliness in the context of weapons and harm involves a need to acquire more means to do further harm.

The timing of the announcement this month seemed curious enough. Could it have been coincidental that it came soon after the Ukrainian strike using the HIMARS system that destroyed a makeshift Russian garrison with lethal consequences? It was certainly wonderfully grotesque timing, even if Australian defence officials had already yearned for the HIMARS system in 2022.

The HIMARS system is certainly getting its sales, proving to be a bountiful treasure for Lockheed Martin. Its lethal strength lies in accuracy over considerable distances and easy deployment. It is also indicative of a broader missile fetish that has gripped Canberra. To make the point, the Australian government also announced the signing of a contract with Norway-based Kongsberg to purchase Naval Strike Missiles for its naval destroyers and frigates, designed to replace the Harpoon anti-ship missiles from next year. Perceived obsolescence remains the militarist’s nightmare and the weapons manufacturer’s hope.

The nervousness towards Russian ambitions in Ukraine has done its bit to boost the purchases for countries historically clutched by the old empire and its interests. Last month, the Baltic states secured deals to attain the rocket system. Such purchases serve two purposes: to reassure the anxious and to fill the pockets of the ambitious. Defence ministers will always cue their performance. “It is a big step for our armed forces, this new system, and it will significantly enhance our national and regional capabilities,” stated Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas.

The Australian example, however, is even less comprehensible, unless read through the demands and needs of a foreign power keen on keeping the gunpowder dry for war. Otherwise, there are no threats to speak of, except in the feverish mind of stupefied analysts subsided by foreign powers. Why, then, go for 20 of such systems at the cost of $385 million ($A558 million), which is more likely to be more expensive, given the refusal by government sources to reveal the actual amount?

James Heading, Director of Programs, Strategic Capabilities Office at Lockheed Martin Australia’s Missiles and Fire Control did little to explain the broader necessity for such a system for Australia, turning it into a logistics fun fair for adult children prone to violent urges. What mattered was how good the killing system was, a toy the entire military family could have. “HIMARS employs a ‘shoot to scoot’ capability which enhances crew and platform survivability in high threat environments.”

With gushing admiration, Heading spoke of “a generational leap in capability for Australia, taking Defence from cannon artillery to Long-Range Precision Fires that provide a 24/7 persistent, all-weather capability.” Such historical comparisons are flawed to the point of caricature, but they tend to be predictable in weapons sales and the need to find ever more imaginative ways of killing. For all the posturing, Heading did lift the cover on the broader strategic value of supplying Australian forces with such weapons: the US imperium, namely, demands it. “HIMARS offers the Australian Defence Force the ability to use and share common munitions and to integrate into a coalition effort.”

This poorly-cooked tripe was swallowed by Australian Defence Minister and chief weapon’s fetishist Richard Marles, “The Albanese Government is taking a proactive approach to keeping Australia safe – and the Naval Strike Missile and HIMARS launchers will give our Defence Force the ability to deter conflict and protect our interests.” (No account has ever shown any defence minister authorising purchases against the country’s interests.)

The Australian Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy was also seduced by the whole issue of capability in the face of fictional demons, till one realises that the only demon being fantasised upon is located to Australia’s distant north and known historically as the Middle Kingdom. To the ABC, he explained with a toddler’s enthusiasm that Australia would now have “an Army ground-launched missile that can reach targets up to 300 kilometres away.”

For all his confidence, Conroy’s Washington masters were also speaking in his ear. “We are part of a developmental program with the United States called the Precision Strike Missile that will allow [the] the army to hit targets in excess of 499 kilometres. So, this will give the Australian army a strike capability they have never had before.”

The US Defense Department was affirmingly clear in its rationale for endorsing the system’s export to Canberra. “The proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” wrote the Pentagon. “Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region.”

The clods in defence are bound to be revelling in all of this. There are no bounds of accountability, no reason to argue against insensible procurements. It’s all about the toys and using them in the next war.

 

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14 comments

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  1. Kerri

    By my calculations that should allow us to attack Papua New Guinea or Indonesia. 🤷🏼‍♀️

  2. Andrew Smith

    Mostly agree, but take issue with this regarding the interests of the Baltic states ‘to reassure the anxious and to fill the pockets of the ambitious’?

    The Baltic sovereign states have every reason due to past and recent history to mistrust Russia, emphasised further by neighbours, the formerly neutral Finland’s & Sweden’s NATO candidacy, while Poland has started planning for massive standing military with much Sth. Korean kit, why?

    Putin’s Russia, but as Counter Punch’s (Mr. Kampmark contributes) Eric Draitser complains, at best the US left has lost the plot following right wing talking points, or complicit in at least appeasing Putin or still claiming that Ukrainians are Nazis &/or don’t exist, a la Tucker Carlson and conga line of sock puppets; he described them (GrayZone US grifters funded by Putin’s caterer) as ‘fake anti-imperialist sh*theads’ and many have lost all credibility by false equivalence.

    On Australia, it clearly shows some long term dysfunction in strategic, military supply planning and procurement when we spend decades planning for some kit, while other purchases like this example, are decided on ‘the fly’, but what is the strategy?

  3. Harry Lime

    OZ, 51st State of the crumbling empire of the US of A.When the fuck are we going to grow up?We might have changed governments,but not much else has changed. Kerri, we’d probably get our arses kicked.The bullshit rolls on, despite the rhetoric.

  4. ajogrady

    Albanese and in particular Australian Defence Minister, chief weapon’s fetishist and brown tongued US sycophant Richard Marles have done a deal with the devil and traded Australia’s sovereignty to appease the China hating, US loving Murdoch media while purchasing US military weaponry that is in the best interests of the US and most emphatically not in Australia’s best interest. Albanese and Marles are answerable to the Australian people not the cringe worthy Murdoch media or the over bloated US weapons manufacturing industry. It is time that Albanese and Marles do what is in the best interests of the proud sovereign nation of Australia.

  5. Fred

    Dr Kampmark: Hear hear. Along with F35s, submarines to be delivered with a generation in between, useless tanks, etc.you really have to wonder how adult the advisers/decision makers are. It’s all waste.

  6. New England Cocky

    With the USA (United States of Apartheid) degenerating by the day into civil disturbance across the nation, the wisdom of purchasing further third rate military equipment from the NE military industrial complex is merely more tribute from a vassal state.

    Obviously Marles & the Department of Defence have watched the Ukraine situation and realised that the AUKUS subs are inappropriate for the defence of the nation any time in the next 30 years, so hit panic buttons to create paper propaganda showing that they are ”taking action to provision the defence of Australia”.

    TOO LATE Boys!! The horse bolted back in the 70s when Canberra wisdom was suckered by the myth that the US would defend Australia.

    All the US wants are our natural resources and has been prepared to garrison Tindal Air Base NT as back-up for the too many US arms industry operatives influencing Australian policy in Canberra.

    If Canberra wants to defend Australia then our best interests are served by strengthening our economic links with Asia and trading our way in the commercial world. Has Canberra forgotten the Australian losses to the Americans in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan ALREADY???

  7. GL

    Lockheed Martin announces their latest weapons system: The RBS Mark 1.

    The Really Big Slingshot can fire 20 kilogram steel pellets up to a distance of 2 kilometres. Australia immediately announced that it is purchasing 175 units at a cost of $25 million per weapon. Lockheed Martin is allowing manufacturing of the pellets in Australia under a commercial in confidence licence.

  8. Phil Pryor

    How can we get rid of entanglements which inferior puerile thinking by Australian operatives has given us, shackles on sense and independence? Potential aggression has been armed in the lie that this is defence. Scott Moron-Scone, Bony Tony Abort, back to Slack Jack Howard the whining Wart, we have lost any pretence of a plot, and Pine Gap, other bases, treaty handcuffs and cheap shortcut attitudes make us a target, ultimately to be baked, fried, atomised. For What? Obliteration, fellow Aussies??

  9. Harry Lime

    While we’re at it ,we might order some medium range trebuchets so we can fire the fuckwits who make these decisions into the Pacific.At least the public will get some satisfaction,and of course, viewing will be free.To add to the attraction, we could herd some sharks into the landing zone.BYO boat and refreshments.

  10. GL

    The delivery date of the RBS Mark 1 has been pushed back by 7 years, now expected for delivery in 2072. Due to faulty rubber bands Lockheed Martin also announced that with ongoing R and D costs the new current price for the Mark 1 will increase by $5.5 million per item. An anonymous government source (while heavily on the sauce at lunch, but that’s another story) told the reporter just before passing out that, “It’s no biggie. When it comes to weapons we always find billions more to keep the Yanks happy.”

  11. Clakka

    That their ’noble’ rationale is defence of citizens and culture against ‘evil doers’ (read ‘others’), prima facie, appears to be revisionistic self-justification.

    As infants, all are interested in the preservation of the self; food, shelter and association (love). From there develops language and an implanted world view. A world view attained at first by nearby experience later added to by deliberate inculcation.

    Is the warrior’s (and their provider’s) development of motivation driven by:

    revenge upon (or for) those nearby
    revenge upon their inculcators
    obedience to their inculcators
    revenge upon others inability to think of anything else to do
    avoiding a fear of failure in the gentle trades, sciences and arts
    a fear of ‘going it alone’
    securing an implanted self by joining a ‘club’
    a quest for tinkering with and developing machinery (of war)
    an ambivalence toward killing (of anything), murder and destruction
    a quest for power, glory and its bling

    Probably any or some or all of the above. And of course, the leaders, the politicians and religious heads and their toady media hacks well know it, and continue to ceaselessly manipulate it with their self-righteous cant since time immemorial. Such nonsense as “The greatest form of defence is attack.”

    Have we learned anything from barbarism throughout history, and its escalation to wars and waste, especially of the 19th and 20th centuries? The kind and gentle and forgiving have probably learned much. But education is replete with the manipulations of the leaders, the politicians and religious heads and their media hacks.

    It creates a perverse circularity that becomes a foundational belief ‘reality’, a global insanity.

    Although I have compassion, sympathy and forgiveness, I continue to have no truck with any of it.

    It represents a failure to learn, to think and negotiate. As can be seen in the last 40 years of our increasingly sanctimonious manic world-of-the-west.

    It would be good to get all of our political parties, and every member of our parliaments, to publish their 2,000 word thesis on the subject, so we can see what they’re made of. But I know that’s not going to happen, as all their war dabblings happen in secret. Yet, I have to vote.

  12. Fred

    Kerri: PNG yes, Indonesia maybe on a good day with the wind behind. The range of the rockets are: 32 km (basic rocket), 45 km (extended-range rocket) / 65-70 km (GMLRS) / 150 km (GMLRS-ER) / 300 km (ATACMS ballistic missile). Of course we will have to test fire (or decommission) all of the rockets before their expiry date as we certainly will not be using them in self defense.

    GL: Maybe Lockheed Martin will come with a high density lightweight munition that doesn’t load the rubber bands too much by gathering up the excreta talked about the need and usefulness of the HIMARS to Australia and compressing it into smelly parcels that puts the aggressors off their food.

    I don’t know which kindergarten the govt is taking input from to develop our defense strategy and what war toys to buy, but the govt needs to have a minister that can stand up to the “military experts” and call out their BS. Maybe even look at the results of some modelling and decide to put maximum effort into diplomacy rather than 2% of GDP on war junk: https://www.csis.org/analysis/first-battle-next-war-wargaming-chinese-invasion-taiwan

  13. andy56

    while i support self sufficiency in defence, i am also a pragmatist. Sure we need HIMARS until i read the specs. 300km range. Couldnt even get out of darwin harbour with that sort of range. But really we need to use the tyranny of distance to our advantage. limit invasion window to cyclone season and dry season. Seriously , who the fuck has a navy big enough to transport its solders here for an invasion. As we see with Russia, ukraine has smashed russia’s supply lines makeing invasion impossible from next door. we have at least 7000km from the chinese main land. the other issue is maintaining the supply of ammunition. we would last about …………..not long enough. as long as we store our fuel in the USA, we will be dry within two weeks. but the logistics for an invader would be a nightmare too.

  14. Douglas Pritchard

    I jumped for joy with the results of our last federal election.
    Now, I know that was completly stupid.
    Something in the Canberra air stinks because Albo is steering in the wrong direction and I really thought we would be saved.
    After all now Wong will get it right.
    When the next opertunity comes along, it will have to be someone demonstrating true independance.
    Being a host nation to Satans daft agenda is no longer to our advantage.

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