Why More American Weapons Will Soon Be Made Outside America

On the grassy plains of Australia’s vast interior, an industrial evolution in the American war machine is gathering momentum. In munitions factories with room to grow, Australia is on the verge of producing heaps of artillery shells and thousands of guided missiles in partnership with American companies.

Made to Pentagon specifications, the weapons will be no different from those built in the United States, and only some of what rolls off the line will stay in Australia. The rest are intended to help replenish U.S. stockpiles or be sold to American partners in an era of grinding ground wars and threats from major powers.

It is all part of an Australian push to essentially become the 51st state for defense production, an ambitious vision that is now taking shape with a giant yellow mixer for explosives and a lightning-protected workshop for assembling missiles known as GMLRS — or “gimmlers.”

“We’re not buying a commodity, we’re investing in an enterprise,” said Brig. Andrew Langford, the Australian director general responsible for domestic manufacturing of guided weapons and explosives. “And that’s where it’s really novel.”

The Benalla munitions factory makes a variety of ordnance, including artillery shells and large bombs.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

The embrace of joint production reflects a wider awakening in Washington and other capitals: The United States by itself cannot make enough of the weapons needed for protracted warfare and deterrence. Vulnerable partners like Taiwan are already facing delayed orders for American equipment even as China’s military capabilities continue to grow.

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