By Peter La Franchi in Canberra

The Australian Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) says it will continue contract negotiations with Boeing Australia and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) for the Australian Army’s Joint Project 129 tactical unmanned air vehicle requirement, despite having asked second-placed contender ADI, teamed with Elbit Systems, to revalidate its Hermes 450 bid.

ADI was approached in late May after DMO negotiations with Boeing Australia, which is offering the IAI I-View 250 system, faltered after five months of talks. Negotiations are believed to have stalled on in-service support issues with the I-View system. Boeing Australia and IAI were named as preferred supplier for the project in mid-December, some two months after the DMO started preliminary negotiations.

hermes 450 
© Peter La Franchi  

ADI and Elbit have asked to resurrect their Hermes 450 bid

The DMO says “contract negotiations have taken much longer than…anticipated or expected. DMO sought clarification from Boeing on a number of critical terms and conditions before announcing them as preferred tenderer. Based on the Boeing response, the DMO was confident that a negotiated outcome could be achieved, and in a reasonable time. During the negotiations, some issues have emerged which have taken longer to resolve than initially expected.”

A contract signature with Boeing Australia is expected by August, the DMO says. The Australian Army wants the UAV to enter service in late 2008 or early 2009.

Meanwhile, the Australian Army’s newly formed 20 Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment is exploring the purchase or lease of at least one, and possibly two, Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle UAV systems for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq as an interim tactical capability ahead of I-View deliveries. The inquiry is being run direct by army headquarters, rather than via the DMO, using the Department of Defence’s rapid acquisition methodology.

Source: Flight International