Australia is to shelve further collaboration on the US Navy's Northrop Grumman RQ-4N Global Hawk-based Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) programme, citing unacceptable pressure on the Australian Defence Force because of the parallel replacement of its Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orions.

"The Australian government has every confidence that the BAMS programme will deliver a very capable uninhabited aircraft. However, at this stage in the development of the project, it is in Australia's best interests to not knowingly risk incurring the unmanageable workforce chaos that would result," says defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

In July 2006 the Australian government gave first pass approval for the Department of Defence to participate with the USN in the co-operative development of a multi-mission unmanned air system capability via BAMS, with initial operational capability originally targeted for fiscal year 2013. However, a slip in the programme now means that the system's earliest possible in-service date is 2015, around the same time that a new manned surveillance aircraft will replace the AP-3C.

 RQ-4N BAMS Australia
© Northrop Grumman

"Blindly pushing on with the programme would have placed a huge and unnecessary strain on our personnel in trying to potentially manage three separate airframes at the one time," says Fitzgibbon. "The Australian government has taken swift action to alleviate these transitional issues by declining the option to continue on with further collaboration at this time."

Australia will continue to closely monitor the progress of BAMS and other similar programmes, says Fitzgibbon. The nation's broader intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability plans will be included in a new Defence White Paper, expected to be released in April.

Source: Flight International