Australia - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-07-19


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) and the Quad (Australia, US, Japan and India). These agreements reflect an uninterrupted allied relationship strecthing back to 1918. The appearance of the Quad and more recently AUKUS is explicitly about ensuring a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific and implicitly in response to increased assertiveness in the region by China which is seen to place the prevailing international order at risk.

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 (target was 2% of GDP per annum but this connection has been downplayed as the investment in defense acquisitions has grown); 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. It is anticipated that the new Australian Government elected in May 2022 will maintain a strong focus on defense spending and the close relationship with the U.S. although there may be variations at the specific program level.

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 will 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.

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. 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.

Many U.S. defense companies have large presences in Australia, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Collins Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, General Dynamics, and Raytheon. These companies and many smaller U.S. companies have won substantial defense contracts in Australia, culminating in Australia’s rise in 2017 to the U.S.’ 2nd largest defense market worldwide.  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 at 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.  Advocacy cases currently active offer the prospect of more than US$10 billion in U.S. sales to Australia, and active Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases are valued at in excess of US$20 billion.

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 armoured combat capabilities. Numerous other projects of varying size will likely also feature U.S. suppliers.

Australia commissioned two Landing Helicopter Docks [LHDs] amphibious assault ships in 2014/15, each of 27,000+ tons, to strengthen its force projection capabilities, and is a major customer for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. New frigates and nuclear-powered submarines are also in the pipeline. By 2020, Australia was able to boast the world’s first all fifth-generation air force, flying almost exclusively U.S.-made product.

Australia has been a firm ally of the U.S. for more than a century, ever since the Battle of Hamel in 1918, 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 heavy focus on various fixed wing, helicopter and UAV aircraft. Australia is a major importer of defense systems and a leading customer of the United States – 3rd in 2015 and 2016, 2nd in 2017, 5th in 2018, and 6th in 2019. This does not include collaborative development activities which are of a similar scale in value to direct export sales.

Australia released its Naval Shipbuilding Plan in May 2017, outlining the country’s largest ever program of naval shipbuilding and sustainment, including an AU$1.3 billion (US$1 billion) investment to develop infrastructure in shipyards and a total investment of an estimated US$70 billion.  While this document was overtaken by the changed focus on nuclear-powered submarines and AUKUS it does indicate the broad scale of Australia’s investment in its naval capabilities including the rolling acquisition of new submarines and the continuous construction of major ships such as future frigates, as well as minor naval vessels.  

U.S. companies looking to showcase their capabilities to Australia and its Asia Pacific neighbors should consider exhibiting in the U.S. Pavilion at the next Australian International Airshow (also known as the Avalon Airshow), held at Avalon Airport south of Melbourne every second year.  The Avalon Airshow 2023 held at the Airport in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, is already shaping up as the largest showcase of U.S. capability in the Indo Pacific region in 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.  In April 2018, the Australian government announced that U.S. companies KBR and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) would jointly deliver a Naval Shipbuilding College in Adelaide to train the skilled workforce necessary to deliver Australia’s ambitious naval capability plan.

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 of approximately AU$7 billion (US$5.5 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 following table summarising defense trade with the U.S. broadly extrapolates 2018 and 2019 numbers forward – despite widespread international economic disruption in 2020 – on the basis that the Australian government’s capacity to keep buying defense equipment is still in place.  Both the former and newly-elected (May 2022) Australian Government committed to strong investment in Australia’s defense capabilities. The former administration also had an export strategy aimed at supporting a local defense export industry and putting Australia among the world’s top ten defense exporters in the near future.

Defense Market Size, million USD

  2019 2020 2021 2022 (estimated)
Total Local Production 8,150 8,200 8,400 8,600
Total Exports 875 925 950 1,000
Total Imports 2,300 2,300 2,400 2,700
Imports from the U.S.* 1,750 1,750 1,850 2,000
Total Market Size 9,575 9,575 9,650 10,300
Exchange Rates .70 .69 .77 .72


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


Unit: US$ Millions

Data Sources: 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 4 June 2022.

NB Imports from the U.S. * are measured differently by U.S. and Australian Government sources. While the above figures for U.S. imports reflect defense export statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Australian Government numbers are consistently higher – i.e., US$3 billion per annum – and reflect likely definitional issues and arbitrary inclusions/exclusions.

Leading Sub-Sectors

The scale of the defense acquisition is so great that U.S. companies would be well advised to review the 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.


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. Land Forces 2021 was held in Brisbane June 1-3, 2021 and represented the return of large trade shows to the Australian calendar. Despite international travel restrictions effectively limiting it to a domestic Australian audience and exhibitor cohort, a new exhibitor record was set of 718 and a U.S. Pavilion was delivered by using Australian subsidiaries and distributors.

MilCIS is the annual Military Communication and Information Systems conference held in Canberra in November and usually features a strong U.S. exhibitor presence. In 2020, MilCIS was held as a virtual event. 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 - AMDSFA - and Kallman Worldwide of NJ promotes and manages U.S. Pavilions at Avalon, Land Forces and Indo-Pacific Martime.  A U.S. Pavilion at MilCIS is not required since at least 30% of exhibitors are U.S. or U.S. subsidiaries.

The Australian Government also organizes the annual U.S. Australia Dialogue on Defence Industries to bring together industry representatives and senior government officials to discuss opportunities to optimize defense industry collaboration.  The most recent Dialogue took place in Washington DC on May 9, 2019. No event was held in 2020 or 2021 due to international travel restrictions but there are expectations it may return to the 2022 calendar in October.

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 at  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.


MilCIS 2022, Canberra ACT, 15-17 November 2022, MilCIS 2022

Organized annually by the Australian Department of Defence, MilCIS is an acronym for military communications and information systems. While it is the smallest of the major defense trade shows and conferences it is a high-quality specialized event that attracts a high caliber Australian and international exhibitor cohort and conference audience.

Land Forces 2022, Brisbane QLD, 4-6 October 2022,

Land Forces: Australia Indo Asia Pacific: International Land Defence Exposition

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 2021 attracted a record 718 participating exhibitor companies, a 40 percent increase over the 2018 event, despite being effectively a domestic only event due to restrictions on international travel.

Indo-Pacific International Maritime Exposition 2022, Sydney NSW, 10-12 May 2022,

Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition: Sydney: Australia: 10-12 May 2022 (

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 Brisbane and features a U.S. Pavilion. The 2022 event set a new record of 735 participating exhibitor companies in an Australian defense trade show.

Avalon 2023 Airshow, Geelong VIC (about 35 miles south of Melbourne)

Avalon Airshow 2023: Avalon Airport, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Avalon Airshow is the largest airshow in the Southern Hemisphere and its trade expo and associated conferences 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. As of the 2019 event, Avalon now features the largest showcase of U.S. capability in any industry in any event in the Indo Pacific, reflecting dramatic growth since 2015. In 2019, U.S. exhibitors totaled 110; the Showtime program included 198 counselling sessions over four days; and seven U.S. states participated with booths featuring selected companies.

Australian Department of Defence, Defence

Self-explanatory, the Australian Government department charged with coordinating the scoping, acquisition and use of military equipment. Defence’s total permanent workforce is scheduled to increase to over 101,000 by 2040 with Australian Defence Force personnel numbers growing by about thirty percent to almost 80,000.

Australian Department of Defence – 2020 Defence Strategic Update,

2020 Defence Strategic Update | About | Defence

The current reference document for Australian defense acquisition plans through to 2030. However, it is in need of review in the wake of the AUKUS announcement and associated changes in strategic direction and with the election of new Australian Government in May 2022.


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.

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.