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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5966

Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Defence Materiel) (16:56): I thank the member for Fadden for his question. I presume you are talking about Global Hawk.

Mr Robert: Heaven forbid the military situate the appreciation, Minister, in terms of what capability it should it be. It was simply a strategic UAE program, of which Global Hawk is one such system I am sure the government could look to acquire.

Mr CLARE: I mentioned Global Hawk because I understand that the opposition's election policy at the last election specified that as being potentially the piece of unmanned aircraft equipment that could fill this gap in the capability program. For the information of the member, I visited US Naval Air Command in Maryland and spoke to the US Navy about this project when I was in the United States in December. I also met with Northrop Grumman, who are the people who build Global Hawk, which is a potential piece of equipment to meet this capability. I discussed this with them while visiting their facility in Bethpage.

Their advice to me is that the current Global Hawk is not the right aircraft for what we need. That is because Global Hawk only has limited radar and sensors designed for surveillance in built-up areas and mountainous terrain. That is why the US Air Force use it mostly over land. It is why the US Navy is investing in developing a new version specifically for use over coastal areas and in open ocean patrols. Northrop Grumman is developing this new variant of Global Hawk, expected to be called Triton. That will have radars and sensors specifically designed for maritime use. It will have endurance to patrol thousands of kilometres at a time. Its sensors will give a 360-degree view of activity on the ocean surface. Once Triton is fully developed, and it is still in its development stage, we look forward to looking at the project carefully in the context of our commitments in the DCP to acquire an unmanned aircraft for maritime patrols. I think that probably covers it.