Australia may become a source of additional Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) development funding as part of a proposed Royal Australian Air Force acquisition.

The Australian Department of Defence is to consider a proposal for a second round of investment at the end of June, ahead of proposed government approval for an acquisition, which is not expected until 2004 and is set at just A$130 million ($70 million).

Australia is also interested in the US Navy's proposed Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Global Hawk, which will probably be equipped with a 360° surveillance radar in place of the RQ-4A's 180° synthetic aperture radar.

Australia injected an initial A$30 million into the Global Hawk development programme in 1999. Australian development funding decisions will be influenced by a new strategic review now being prepared alongside a new 10-year capability plan.

The Australian government is expected to consider both in September, with this pushing a decision on extra Global Hawk funds into October-December.

Northrop Grumman is targeting Australian companies as potential participants in Global Hawk production for US and export customers.

A Northrop Grumman team visited Canberra last week to discuss Australia's requirements. An industry briefing on 29 April included proposals from Northrop Grumman for Australian companies to participate in aerostructures and radome manufacture, electronic warfare self-protection development, software development and systems integration.

Other candidate areas include signals intelligence and communications systems, mission planning systems, command and control systems for ground, airborne and maritime applications, and ground support systems.

Source: Flight International