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Australia funds study

PETER LA FRANCHI/LONDON

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems has been awarded a A$4.7 million ($3.5 million) contract by the Australian Department of Defence to prepare simulations of RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance operations over the north-west Australian coastline.

Expected to conclude by December 2007, the study is to be conducted in lieu of actual deployment of the high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicle for the extensively delayed Australian coastal surveillance UAV demonstration, announced almost two years ago. Northrop last year advised the DoD that no Global Hawk aircraft would be available to support the demonstration due to US operational commitments.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is preparing to deploy its Mariner endurance UAV prototype to Australia in August to support the demonstration, with flights to take place in September.

The Australian DoD is expected to make announcements on the demonstrations as part of its new national defence budget, to be released on 9 May. It had originally planned the demonstration as a fly-off between the Mariner and Global Hawk ahead of an acquisition for the Royal Australian Air Force under Project Air 9000 Phase 1. Provisional funding for a purchase will be included in the new budget, dependent on additional government approvals by 2008.

■ Australia’s new budget is also expected to include provisional funding for its proposed Project Air 5428 pilot training system requirement.

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