Australia - Country Commercial Guide
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Australia has a deep and diverse collaborative relationship with the U.S. in the field of defense and security and it is attested to by a mix of agreements, some of which involve other countries, including ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand and US), the Australia-U.S. Treaty on Defence Trade Cooperation, the Five Eyes intelligence partnership (Australia, NZ, Canada, UK, and US), the Quad (Australia, US, Japan and India) and most recently AUKUS (Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.) These agreements reflect an uninterrupted allied relationship stretching back to 1918. The appearance of the Quad and AUKUS is explicitly about ensuring a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific through international engagement and technology enhancement; and is implicitly in response to increased assertiveness in the region by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which challenges the prevailing international order.

The Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) agreement was announced on September 15, 2021.  The nuclear-powered  submarine element captured the most media attention at the time as neither the U.S. nor the U.K. had shared nuclear submarine technologies with any other country since they entered the U.S.-U.K. nuclear partnership in 1958.  However AUKUS is more accurately described as both a trilateral technology accelator whose scope includes nuclear-powered submarines but also explicitly includes cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and other undersea technologies other than the submarines.

Australia is a major defense market for the United States and is pursuing a multi-streamed defense acquisition policy including substantially increased total expenditure; acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, incorporating interoperability with the U.S. military; skills transfer and in-country R&D, assembly and manufacture as part of a development plan to grow the Australian defense industry; re-establishing a naval shipbuilding industry; and pursuit of international sales from Australian-produced defense systems.

Annual total defense expenditure is of the order of US$25–30 billion and defense acquisition and sustainment is a large part of this figure. Australia’s already substantial defense purchases were strengthened in March 2016 by the release of the Defence White Paper which detailed a US$145 billion defense acquisition plan for the decade to FY 2025-26. More recently, Australia’s defense acquisition planning has been further strengthened by the 2020 Defence Strategic Update which details a ten-year US$190 billion defense acquisition plan ending FY 2029-30. Following the election of a new Australian Government in May 2022, a Defence Strategic Review (DSR) was implemented to re-examine Australia’s defense priorities and consequential future defense acquisitions. A highly-summarised version of the DSR  was publicly released in April 2023.

The previous Australian Government had committed to defense investments including an unspecified number of nuclear-powered submarines; 9 anti-submarine warfare frigates (to be built by UK company BAE Systems); 12 patrol vessels (Germany); 7 P-8 Poseidon aircraft (U.S.); 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters (U.S.); 12 E/A-18G Growler airborne electronic warfare aircraft (U.S.); helicopters of various types (United States has multiple options); missile defense systems (probably U.S.); a long-range rocket system (probably U.S.); a new generation of armored vehicles (Germany); and upgrading the main battle tank fleet (U.S.). In addition, there was to be a host of investments including upgrades to airports, training areas, army bases, naval facilities, and cyber and communications systems. U.S. industry is well-placed to win some of this business, particularly in collaboration with Australian industry. A major cyber initiative titled Project REDSPICE was also announced in the 2022-23 Budget.

Some of these have not/will not proceed due to changed Australian Government priorities. Nevertheless large acquisitions continue to be announced in 2023 and U.S. industry directly and indirectly through its Australian presence, confirming that defense remains a major sector of commercial opportunity.

Australia has been a firm ally of the U.S. for more than a century, ever since the Battle of Hamel in 1918 in the closing stages of the First World War,  when the two armies first went into combat together. Australia’s defense acquisitions are premised on a desire to operate the most advanced conventional defense systems in the world; a commitment to defend its territorial jurisdiction, and a readiness to deploy worldwide in support of key policy objectives. Australia fully funds its defense acquisitions and undertakes periodic reviews of its national defense strategy and associated equipment needs.

Australia’s defense equipment investment program includes a shared focus on expanding its indigenous capabilities while also acquiring the most effective international offerings, more often than not from the U.S. Australia is a major importer of defense systems and a leading customer of the United States – consistently a top 10 market as measured in Commerce defense trade data and  reaching as high as 2nd in 2017. An independent Swedish instutute – the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) - also measures military expenditute and arms trade worldwide and it has ranked Australia as the U.S.’ 2nd largest defense market for the 16 years 2007-2022. While defense trade statistics are open to some debate, the trend is nevertheless clear. Australia buys big from the U.S. and it continues to do so over an extended period of time.

Many U.S. defense companies have large presences in Australia, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Collins Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, General Dynamics, and Raytheon. And not forgetting BAE Systems which while U.K. based has a substantial U.S. subsidiary in BAE Systems, Inc. These companies and many smaller U.S. companies have won substantial defense contracts in Australia, commonly involving teams of companies bidding for complex projects. 

Australia’s defense industry is also a major investor in the United States, with Australian defense companies now present in over thirty U.S. states. The Australian Defence Sales Catalog is available online and will be of interest for U.S. companies who are looking for potential Australian partners and/or distributors as well as those who trade in military equipment, including of U.S. origin.

Note also that there is a particularly strong American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham) with offices across the country, including its most recent addition in Canberra.

U.S. companies also have the in-country support of U.S. export promotion agencies – specifically the U.S. Commercial Service with an aerospace and defense specialist based in the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, along with a uniformed team at the Office of Defense Cooperation, also located in the U.S. Embassy, tasked with facilitating U.S. solutions for a range of Australian defense projects. Both offices actively engage with U.S. companies and the Advocacy Center in Washington DC to advocate on behalf of U.S. bids for defense projects in Australia.

U.S. industry is a likely key beneficiary of decisions concerning weapons systems, although the scale and diversity of the total program of acquisitions means there will need to be a number of collaborative bids for projects involving third countries and incorporating Australian industrial capabilities. Two major Australian decisions announced in January 2022 included the selection of Boeing’s Apache Guardian helicopter and General Dynamics Land Systems’ M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks in multi-billion projects that will deliver exceptional attack helicopter and armored combat capabilities. Numerous other projects of varying size will likely also feature U.S. suppliers.

There is also a 2011 agreement facilitating deployments of USMC personnel to Northern Australia for training purposes, as well another with the Republic of Singapore for ongoing deployments and training of its military personnel, also in Northern Australia.  Australia has announced plans for improvements to its defense bases nationwide with particular attention to naval bases in Darwin and Henderson near Perth. An east coast submarine base has also recently been mooted at an estimated cost of US$7 billion, with three sites under consideration.

Australian defense expenditure is closely aligned with its territorial claims to, and associated defense of, the largest jurisdiction of any nation – 10 million square miles or 27.2 million square kilometers – split almost evenly between land and ocean, and stretching from the South Pole to just short of the Equator. This places a heavy burden on the nation’s military and its border security services. Australia’s Search and Rescue Region (SRR) covers approx 53 million square kilometres or nearly eleven per cent of the Earth’s surface.

The Australian Defence Force is widely regarded as the most potent military force in the Southern Hemisphere, comprising some 60,000 full-time personnel and over 20,000 active reserves, operating a technologically-advanced portfolio of weapons platforms. In March 2022 the former Australian Government announced long term plans to grow Australian military personnel to 80,000 by 2040. While that commitment is not binding on the current government, it is reasonable to extrapolate a stronger Australian Defence Force over time as a range of investments are delivered impacting on both the uniformed and civilian workforce, including a large investment in cyber capabilities, as well as increasing use of unmanned systems in all domains. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) which provides foreign signals intelligence, cybersecurity advice and offensive cyber operations to meet Australia’s defense needs is set to receive USD 6.3 billion over the next decade to deliver on the REDSPICE cyber and intelligence capabilities. REDSPICE is an acronym for Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber Enablers. Australia has a strong, apolitical commitment to national defense and a shared understanding that the international environment is becoming increasingly contested, including in regions neighbouring Australia and indeed within Australia.

After many years focusing on strengthening its air force, by 2020-21 Australia was able to boast the world’s first all-fifth-generation air force, flying almost exclusively U.S.-made product. This included Australia being a major customer for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.  In parallel there has been a shift in emphasis towards making major land forces acquisitions and even moreso to deliver on ambitious naval capabilities. Indeed the replacement and upgrade of its submarine fleet was a major defense objective that featured in multiple strategic planning documents (notably the  Naval Shipbuilding Plan in May 2017 with an estimated total investment of USD 70 billion) prior to the momentous 2021 AUKUS announcement which committed Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. to the development of an Australian nuclear-powered submarine fleet, among a range of other initiatives.  The submarine element alone is estimated to cost Australia USD 180 billion - USD 250 billion between now and the mid-2050s.

The AUKUS initiative aims to boost defense capabilities, accelerate technological integration and expand the industrial capacity of all three nations. It comprises two pillars: Pillar 1 is a trilateral effort to support Australia in acquiring conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs); and Pillar 2 focuses on expediting cooperation in critical technologies, including cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, additional undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, and a range of other initiatives.

U.S. companies looking to showcase their capabilities to Australia and its Asia Pacific neighbors should consider exhibiting in the U.S. Pavilions at one of the three leading biennial defense trade shows and conferences held in Australia – Indo Pacific Maritime (November 7-9, 2023 in Sydney), Land Forces (September 11-13, 2024 in Melbourne) and the Avalon Airshow (March 25-30, 2025) - or other specialist events like MilCIS (held annually in Canberra), RotorTech and  MRO Australasia.  Avalon has emerged as the single largest showcase of U.S. capabilities in any industry at any event in the Indo Pacific, with the 2023 event featuring 150 U.S. exhibitors including 86 in the U.S. Pavilion that also featured nine U.S. states. Indo Pacific Maritime is the next scheduled major defense event in late 2023.

Total U.S. defense sales to Australia are hard to quantify due to their nature and to differing definitions of what constitutes a ‘defense’ sale, but Australian government sources confirm annual defense purchases from the U.S. have exceeded US$3 billion per annum in recent years. While equipment of diverse kinds dominates Australian defense purchasing it also invests heavily in services including cyber/electronic warfare, training and facilities construction.  Equipment supply includes leading edge technologies such as the MQ-4C Triton remotely-piloted aircraft from Northrop Grumman announced in June 2018 to be supplied via a cooperative program with the U.S. Navy. Six or possibly seven MQ-4C RPAS are planned to be acquired under the AIR 7000 project, with a total potential value in the range USD 3-5 billion. And while various companies have or will win the prime contractor roles to deliver these large projects, that still leaves extensive specific supply opportunities for U.S. companies within their scope.  For example, while UK company BAE Systems will build the AU$35 billion (US$27 billion) SEA 5000 fleet of anti-submarine warfare frigates, the United States will supply its Aegis combat management system as a critical component and Australian industry content is expected to reach 65-70%, further opening up opportunities for U.S. companies and their subsidiaries to work with local Australian partners.

Boeing, which has its largest presence outside the U.S. in Australia, has also utilized its Australian workforce to develop the Loyal Wingman pilotless combat vehicle (UCAV) – now named Ghost Bat - which is the first aircraft that Boeing has designed and will build outside the U.S. and which opens up export opportunities from Australia. 

The key source document for future defense purchases has been the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which was released in July 2020.  It is accessible online and updates the 2016 Defence White Paper explaining Australia’s defense strategy and planned acquisitions.  The 2023 Defence Strategic Review (DSR) is the most current guide to future defense investments but the public version does not provide project budget details. Useful additional analysis can be found in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report ‘The Big Squeeze – ASPI defence budget brief 2023-2024’.

The following table summarises Australian defense industry production and trade and is intended as a broad guide only.

Defense Market Size, million USD

Table: Defense Market Size, million USD
 2020202120222023 (estimated)
Total Local Production5,2506,3006,9008,100
Total Exports9259501,0001,200
Total Imports5,9007,0006,4206,000
Imports from the U.S.*4,1004,9004,5004,200
Total Market Size10,22510,2509,90011,100
Exchange Rates.

(Total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Unit: US$ Millions

Data Sources: Table revised as per Australian Department of Defence data (May 2023) and elsewhere drawing on Global Trade Atlas; IBISWorld Australia; tariff and trade data from the US Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Administration; White Paper on Defense, Australian Department of Defence; Australian defense sector estimates and analysis. Data retrieved as of 2 August 2023.

NB Imports from the U.S. * are measured differently by U.S. and Australian Government sources. The U.S provides most of Australia’s defense imports ie roughly 70 per cent year on year. Definitional and confidentiality issues obscure accurate data and so a percentage figure has been applied to approximate the most inclusive/complete estimate.

Leading Sub-Sectors

The scale of the defense acquisition is so great that U.S. companies would be well advised to review the DSR 2023, 2021 AUKUS announcement; 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the preceding 2016 Defence White Paper; identify potential opportunities from the information provided; and subsequently reach out to the U.S. Commercial Service and/or the Office of Defense Cooperation in Canberra, for more detailed advice. Key documents accessible online are noted below.


Strong promotion is essential. Three major defense trade shows held in Australia on a rolling two-year cycle, each featuring a U.S. Pavilion are the Australian International Airshow at Avalon, which is held in alternate years from  the Singapore Air Show; the Indo-Pacific International Maritime Exposition; and Land Forces. While transportation restrictions and border closures constrained normal business interaction 2019-2021 these three events have been progressively setting new exhibitor records for Australian defense trade shows – Land Forces 2021 (718), Indo-Pacific Maritime 2022 (731) , Land Forces 2022 (810) and the Avalon Airshow (794). There are also specialized events such as the annual Military Communication and Information Systems (MilCIS) trade show and conference held in Canberra in November and which usually features a strong U.S. exhibitor presence. Approx 30 per cent of the 150 or so exhibitors are U.S. in any one year and such is its specialized significance that almost half of the exhibitors at the 2019 event were U.S.-based or Australian subsidiaries of U.S. companies and indeed all the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of the five Five Eyes nations (U.S., UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) attended and delivered keynote presentations.

It is worth noting that Avalon, Indo-Pacific Maritime, and Land Forces (and the helicopter industry trade show RotorTech) are all organized by one company – the AMDA Foundation, an Australian not-for-profit corporation established to promote the development of aviation and Australia’s industrial, manufacturing and information/communications technology resources in the fields of aviation, aerospace, maritime, defence and security. Kallman Worldwide of New Jersey promotes and manages U.S. Pavilions at Avalon, Land Forces and Indo-Pacific Maritime.  A U.S. Pavilion at MilCIS is not required since at least 30% of exhibitors are U.S. or U.S. subsidiaries.

Key defense acquisition and sustainment projects are profiled on the Australian Department of Defence website. Project opportunities are advertised via tender and can be found on the AusTender website.  U.S. companies should pay particular attention to the Australian Government’s Industry Capability Plan requirements and objectives.  Australia is determined to reverse a decline in its defense industry capabilities, starting with the rejuvenation of its naval shipbuilding, and has a strategy to turn Australia into a leading defense exporter in the mid-term.  While not mandating specific Australian content requirements or offsets, Australia is determined to see that everything that can be done in Australia should be done in Australia and has been quite clear that those companies that bid on that basis will be looked upon more favourably than those that do not.

Note that this framework still leaves enormous opportunities for U.S. companies to sell directly; in collaboration with an Australian distributor / partner; and / or via an Australian subsidiary or contracted partner delivered some work in-country.  It is about ‘clever supply’ that delivers enhanced capabilities in Australia while also achieving export success to U.S. exporters and manufacturers. U.S. industry is a preferred partner, benefits strongly from Australia’s determination to deliver interoperability with the U.S. military, and easily wins the largest share of defense business going to non-Australian suppliers, as well as a large share of Australian industry business via its Australian subsidiaries.


Indo Pacific Maritime Expo
Dates: October 9-11, 2023
Location: Sydney NSW
Indo Pacific Maritime is the premier industry event focusing on the needs of the Royal Australian Navy and also featuring a range of products and services aimed at commercial shipping and seaports. It is held every second year in Sydney and features a U.S. Pavilion. The 2022 event set a new record of 735 participating exhibitor companies in an Australian defense trade show and this year’s event is anticipated to be the first maritime defense trade show to break the 800 total. Given the strong AUKUS focus on nuclear-powered submarines and associated undersea technologies, as well as various other leading technologies, this event will also attract a record U.S. exhibitor contingent.

MilCIS 2023 (Military Communications and Information Systems)
Dates: November 14-16, 2023
Location: Canberra ACT
Organized annually by the Australian Department of Defence, MilCIS is the smallest of the major defense trade shows and conferences but its specialized nature re communications, IT, cyber, etc ensures that it attracts a strong exhibitor cohort including a large U.S. presence. Anticipate around 150 exhibitors and an excellent conference at each event, with exceptional access to Defence personnel and a strong industry audience.

Land Forces 2024
September 11-13, 2024
Melbourne VIC
Land Forces is the premier industry event for pitching to the Australian Army, Special Forces, and law enforcement agencies. It features a U.S. Pavilion and in 2022 attracted a record 810 participating exhibitor companies, which is the current record exhibitor record for any defense trade event in Australia. Land Forces has changed venue in recent times as its continued expansion has attracted interest from around Australia. After being held in Brisbane in 2014, 2021 and 2022 and in Adelaide in 2016 and 2018, the event moves to Melbourne in 2024.

Avalon 2025 Airshow
Dates: March 25-30, 2025
Location: Geelong VIC (about 35 miles south of Melbourne)
Avalon Airshow is the largest airshow in the Southern Hemisphere and its trade expo and associated conferences vie with Land Forces to attract the largest number of participating exhibitor companies of any of the defense trade shows held in Australia. It features a U.S. Pavilion, a large Showtime program of consultations with U.S. Exhibitors and in 2019 featured its first U.S. Investment Seminar. Avalon attracts by far the largest U.S. exhibitor cohort of any event in Australia – the 2023 event featured 150 U.S. exhibitors in total, 86 on the U.S. Pavilion itself, including 9 U.S. state booths with companies, another U.S. Investment Seminar and a Showtime program that including Commerce specialists from not only Australia but New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)  and the Advocacy Center. Indeed for the past two Avalon Airshows in 2019 and 2023, Avalon has been  the largest showcase of U.S. capability in any industry in any event in the Indo Pacific, reflecting dramatic growth since 2015.


Some other websites that will of interest include the following.

Australian Department of Defence, Defence.  Self-explanatory, the Australian Government department charged with coordinating the scoping, acquisition and use of military equipment.

U.S. Pavilion coordinator at Indo Pacific Maritime, Land Forces, and Avalon Airshow – Kallman Worldwide.  Kallman Worldwide is a New Jersey-based company that organizes U.S. Pavilions at various trade shows worldwide, particularly those of a defense nature. Kallman organizes three such pavilions at the abovenamed Australian events.

The AMDA Foundation – organisers of the three largest defense trade shows and conferences in Australia as well as the RotorTech helicopter and UAV trade show and conference.

U.S. Department of Commerce – The Advocacy Center – The Advocacy Center works with Posts to coordinate targeted support for U.S. companies that have been formally approved for assistance in the pursuit of major overseas project opportunities. In Australia most of these projects are historically of a defense nature.