Australia has made no decision about changing the composition of the maritime patrol aircraft fleet it will obtain under its Air 7000 project.
"No decisions have been made at this time to change the needs for Project Air 7000," says Australia's Department of Defence. "However, like all projects, Air 7000 is subject to ongoing review to ensure the requirements will deliver a responsive airpower capability for the Australian government."
The DoD was responding to an email query from Flightglobal regarding comments by Royal Australian Air Force chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown that were reported by an international news service last week.
"We are making an argument that a larger number of [Boeing] P-8As would be better," Brown said. "I am not looking for more dollars, I am just looking at where we spend the money." The article added that a larger number of the 737-based type would reduce Canberra's need for unmanned platforms in the maritime surveillance role.
"The article's assumption that the number of unmanned air systems would be paired down is incorrect," says the DoD.
At present, the Air 7000 effort calls for Australia to order eight P-8As and seven unmanned systems. In early 2013, Canberra announced that it had asked for technical data for the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton, the system widely believed to be the lead contender for the UAS component of the planned acquisition.
The aircraft obtained under Air 7000 will replace the RAAF's fleet of 19 Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.