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Thursday 13th March 2014 - 1:30 pm
Comments Off on PM makes a big defence announcement, just before the South Austrralian elections

PM makes a big defence announcement, just before the South Austrralian elections

by Alan Thornhill

Australia is to buy Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to boost its offshore air defences.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who made the announcement today, said the purchase would be conditional on the successful completion of the US Navy development program, which is currently under way.

Mr Abbott said: “These aircraft will patrol Australia’s vast ocean approaches, and work closely with other existing and future Australian Defence Force assets to secure our ocean resources, including energy resources off northern Australia, and help to protect our borders.

“They will provide the Australian Defence Force with unprecedented maritime surveillance capabilities, operating at altitudes up to 55,000 feet over extremely long ranges while remaining airborne for up to 33 hours,” he added.

He said the Triton UAVs would be based in Adelaide, bringing significant economic benefits to South Australia.

Mr Abbott made the announcement just days before the South Australian State elections, which will take place on Saturday.

He said: “This acquisition will require approximately $140 million of new facilities and infrastructure, approximately $100 million of which will be invested in South Australia.

“This potentially involves the expansion and enhancement of existing facilities and infrastructure at RAAF Base Edinburgh. Support requirements for Triton should create approximately $20 million annually in further opportunities for South Australian companies,” Mr Abbott said.

The total number of Triton UAVs to be acquired and their introduction into service date will be further considered by Government in 2016, based on the Defence White Paper.

The Government has also announced a contract that includes $78 million in work for BAE in Adelaide.

This forms part of a five-year multi-million dollar contract with Boeing Defence Australia for the sustainment of the Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft.

The main contract will now run until June 2019 and includes engineering and maintenance support, repairs, spare parts and aircrew and maintenance training for the Wedgetail fleet.

This is a significant outcome for the Wedgetail programme and for the 290 industry staff employed directly on Wedgetail support in the Newcastle, Brisbane/Ipswich and Adelaide regions.

The Coalition Government is committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force, Mr Abbott said.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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