By Praveen Menon

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The U.S. will help Australia produce guided multiple-launch rocket systems by 2025, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on in Brisbane on Saturday.

Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are in Queensland state for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN) dialogue with their Australian counterparts.

“We are pursuing several mutually beneficial initiatives with Australia’s defence industry, and these include a commitment to help Australia produce guided multiple launch rocket systems… by 2025,” Austin told a press conference.

The U.S is also accelerating Australia’s access to priority munitions through a streamlined acquisition process, he said.

It is the first time Australia has hosted the high-level meeting since 2019 due to the COVID-19 disruption.

“We are really pleased with the steps that we are taking in respect of establishing a guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise in this country,” Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said.

He expressed hope that missile manufacturing could begin in Australia in two years, as part of a collective industrial base between our two countries”.

Marles said there would be an “increased tempo of visits from American nuclear-powered submarines to our waters” as part of the bilateral engagement.

After the two-day talks ending on Saturday, Marles and Austin were set to travel to north Queensland, where Australian and U.S. military are taking part in the Talisman Sabre war games along with 11 other nations.

The games, however, were put on hold after an Australian military helicopter participating in the exercises crashed into the ocean, with at least four people onboard feared dead.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by William Mallard)

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