A host of companies are preparing to submit bids for the Australian Department of Defence's Joint Project 129 tactical unmanned air vehicle (TUAV) requirement, tenders for which will be issued in May. Australia wants the system to enter operational service by late 2007, with a source selection expected early next year and a contract signature planned for mid-2005.

AAI of the USA has teamed with BAE Systems Australia to offer its Shadow 200 system, with options on a variety of BAE Systems-developed image processing and command and control toolsets.

Sagem of France and Tenix Defence Systems have been working for the past year to modify the Sperwer UAV's command, control and image processing systems to integrate with the Australian Army's battlefield command and control system (BCSS). Saab Australia, prime contractor for the BCSS project, joined the Sagem-Tenix team late last year.

Thales of France, ADI and Elta of Israel are offering the Hermes 180 and options on the Hermes 450, in a bid baselined on the air vehicle and command and control architecture offered for the UK's Watchkeeper programme.

Boeing Australia and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) are promoting the Searcher system.

EADS subsidiary Australian Aerospace will offer the Fox-T, although the company may propose options for the EADS/IAI Eagle medium-endurance UAV.

The only rotary-wing UAV bid is expected from Bell Helicopter, which last year confirmed it was eyeing the Australian requirement for its Eagle Eye tiltrotor system. Northrop Grumman's RQ-8 Firescout is thought to be too capable for the TUAV requirement, and the company intends to pursue a proposed Royal Australian Navy follow-on requirement for a vertical take-off and landing UAV.

Aeronautics of Israel is planning to bid its Aerostar system via the Melbourne-based Point Trading company. Point Trading managing director Avner Klein says the team has also been working with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority since early 2003 to secure approvals to establish a commercial UAV lease business in Australia.

Korea Aerospace Industries is to offer its Night Intruder 300, with company officials having held talks with teaming partners in the past year. The South Korean defence ministry raised the proposed bid with the Australian Defence Headquarters capability development staff during bilateral talks held in Canberra last December.

ATE of South Africa is expected to offer its Vulture system.

Source: Flight International