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Australia shortlists contenders for SEA129 maritime UAS initiative

Maritime UAS
Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The Australian defense ministry has selected five companies that will proceed to “Block One” of the Royal Australian Navy’s SEA129 Phase 5 project.

The project will see the country invest AU$1.3 billion in a new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) development program that will equip navy ships with UAS with air vehicles between approximately 25 to 300kg in size. The UAS will enhance the situational awareness and response options of Royal Australian Navy ships.

The defense ministry revealed on March 23 that BAE Systems Australia, Insitu Pacific, Northrop Grumman Australia, Raytheon Australia, and Textron Systems Australia had been shortlisted for Block One of SEA129 Phase 5.

“This program will acquire maritime unmanned intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting aircraft systems which will complement current sensors and systems on navy’s ships, while boosting a ship’s area of surveillance,” Australian acting defense minister Marise Payne said.

Block One of the program is the first phase of a 30-year continuous development program, with five-year rolling block upgrades, which will incorporate new technology upgrades.

“By incorporating new technology through block upgrades every five years, the program supports the development of Australia’s Unmanned Aircraft System industry, and provides the Navy with a leading edge maritime surveillance capability,” defense industry minister Melissa Price said.

“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, while strengthening long-term job growth and security.”

Future opportunities will be available in forthcoming Blocks of SEA129 Phase 5 from 2024.