Australia Shortlist Five Companies For RAN’s Unammaned Helicopters Programme

Northrop Grumman and Leonardo have teamed up to offer the AWHero UAV for the Australian requirement.

Canberra has announced the shortlist for its Sea 129-5 acquisition, which will see Royal Australian Navy ships receive a new unmanned air vehicle (UAV) capability.

The five contenders are BAE Systems Australia, Insitu Pacific, Northrop Grumman Australia, Raytheon Australia, and Textron Systems Australia, says defence minister Melissa Price.

Northrop Grumman and Leonardo have teamed up to offer the AWHero UAV for the Australian requirement

“This programme will acquire maritime unmanned intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting aircraft systems which will complement current sensors and systems on [the] navy’s ships, while boosting a ship’s area of surveillance,” she says.

“Today’s milestone is a result of the Morrison government’s unprecedented A$270 billion [$205 billion] investment in defence capability over the next decade, which is equipping the Australian Defence Force with world-class, cutting edge capability.”

Canberra foresees the programme running for 30 years with rolling block upgrade every five years, allowing for technology improvements.

“By incorporating new technology through block upgrades every five years, the programme supports the development of Australia’s unmanned aircraft system industry, and provides the navy with a leading edge maritime surveillance capability,” adds Price.

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“This process will allow Australian businesses to be directly involved in providing greater situational awareness for the fleet, in particular the new Arafura offshore patrol vessels [OPVs], while strengthening long-term job growth and security.”

According to an earlier report in the Australian Defence Business Review, the shortlist was delayed from December 2020 to March 2021 owing to the unexpected number of innovative submissions that were put forward for the requirement.

The Arafura-class OPV is a small warship that will displace 1,640t. Australia is obtaining 14, with four examples under construction. The type features a large helipad on its stern. Service entry is expected in 2022. 

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