Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

The Australian Department of Defence is to seek funding for a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) buy as part of the 2004 defence budget according to new forward-planning documents.


The plans, detailing the Australian DoD's 10 year acquisition plan in terms of requirements, generic value and proposed funding decision dates, were provided to the Australian Senate in early April in response to questions posed by the Standing Committee on Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The proposals show planning for a funding allocation of up to A$250 million ($127 million) in the Australian 2004-05 budget for a Global Hawk purchase.

The documents also reveal funding approvals are to be sought in this month's defence budget for the purchase of 20-24 Sikorsky S-70A Black Hawk helicopters and the go-ahead for structural refurbishment of Royal Australian Air Force Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighters. The projects are expected to cost up to A$500 million each.

Approvals will also be sought for the purchase of:

Raytheon SM-2 surface-to-air missiles to replace SM-1 missiles arming the Royal Australian Navy's FFG-7 class frigates. Additional Raytheon Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. Additional Saab Bofors Dynamics RBS70 very low level air defence missiles and an upgrade of existing launchers and rounds. An A$100-250 million upgrade of the RAAF's ageing de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou tactical transports.

The proposed Global Hawk acquisition phase is some five years earlier than anticipated by defence analysts. The proposed funding timeframe also contrasts with recent statements by senior DoD officials that no plans are in place for a Global Hawk purchase with any acquisition dependent on the outcome of trials in Australia over the next six weeks. A Global Hawk touched down in Adelaide on 23 April after becoming the first UAV to fly across the Pacific Ocean.

Revealed within the document are plans for initial funding of the Air 6000 fighter programme to be sought in the 2006 Australian defence budget, while approvals for a Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion structural refurbishment will be sought in 2007.

Source: Flight International