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Tenders called for tactical unmanned surveillance planes.



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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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Monday, 5 July 2004 128/2004

TENDERS CALLED FOR TACTICAL UNMANNED SURVEILLANCE PLANES

Defence will spend $100-$150 million to acquire a fleet of tactical unmanned surveillance planes under a Request for Tender to be released later this month, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.

Senator Hill said the aircraft would be capable of providing capabilities such as airborne surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition in support of land operations.

“The unmanned aircraft will be equipped with an integrated sensor capable of collecting video and still images by day and night,” Senator Hill said.

“While the aircraft will operate autonomously, it will be remotely commanded and monitored from a ground station where the crew will process the imagery collected from the aircraft’s integrated sensor.

Whilst this will be the first mature Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) system acquired by the Australian Defence Force, Senator Hill said a trial of the small Aerosonde UAV in the Solomon Islands last year had proved the importance of such capabilities for the ADF of the future. Additionally, the tactical UAV system would be complemented by a larger high-altitude strategic UAV, such as the Global Hawk, as foreshadowed in the Defence Capability Plan.

Senator Hill said the new capability would be operated by the Australian Army, with a new Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment to be formed and located at Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane. The new regiment would also include the existing 131 Surveillance and Target Acquisition Battery, together with a Combat Support Services Battery.

Senator Hill said the project had attracted worldwide interest, with suitable systems currently in service with the armed forces of many countries, including the US, Israel, Canada, South Africa and several European countries.

“Australian industry is set to benefit from the project, through partnership in the international bids expected from France, Israel, South Africa and United States”, Senator Hill said.

Tactical unmanned aerial vehicles are available in both fixed and rotary wing configurations and can be launched and recovered in a variety of ways, including conventional wheeled take-off and landing, vertical take-off and landing, catapult launch and parachute recovery.

The aircraft wingspans are typically up to 10 metres and they will have payload capacities of up to 150kg. The aircraft will have a radius of action of at least 150km and up to 24 hours endurance.

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Media contacts Catherine Fitzpatrick (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7800 0405 351 245

Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664

www.defence.gov.au

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The Request for Tender will be issued at the end of July, with bids due by November. Selection of the successful tenderer is expected to occur by May 2005.

Last Friday, Senator Hill visited General Atomics flight operations facility at Palm Dale, south of Los Angeles, where he observed test flights of General Atomics’ Predator and Mariner UAVs.

Last year, Senator Hill also inspected Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk UAV.