Home Asia Pacific Australia proceeds with Schiebel for A$1.3B maritime UAS project

Australia proceeds with Schiebel for A$1.3B maritime UAS project

Schiebel S-100 for Australian Sea129 MUAS project
Illustration: A remotely operated Schiebel Camcopter S-100 from 822X Squadron lands on the flight deck of MV Sycamore off the coast of NSW. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The Australian defense ministry has decided to fast-track its purchase of maritime unmanned aerial systems (MUAS) under the SEA129 Phase 5 project by procuring Schiebel’s S-100 Camcopter under a single-source acquisition.

First reports on the decision emerged on May 3 and the company already welcomed the decision, saying the move “would enable the Royal Australian Navy to accelerate the capability acquisition they need.”

“The offered MUAS builds on the capability that has been provided by the proven S-100 air vehicle currently in service with the RAN and is expected to create about 100 new Australian jobs. The design, development, manufacture, integration and support of the system will all be undertaken in Australia,” the company said.

To remind, Australia announced in March last year it had selected five companies to proceed to “Block One” of the AU$1.3 billion SEA129 Phase 5 project. The shortlisted contenders included BAE Systems Australia, Insitu Pacific, Northrop Grumman Australia, Raytheon Australia, and Textron Systems Australia.

Schiebel’s S-100 was proposed by Raytheon as the main contractor. The same duo competed for the Australian Army’s tactical UAS program, but was beaten by Insitu Pacific.

By forgoing an open tendering process with the five bidders, Australia expects to accelerate an initial operational capability with the MUAS by 18 months, a defense ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

The quantity of unmanned aerial systems to be procured in this phase of the program has not been revealed.

Block One of the SEA129 program is the first phase of a 30-year continuous development program, with five-year rolling block upgrades, which will incorporate new technology upgrades. Future opportunities are expected to become available in forthcoming Blocks of SEA129 Phase 5 from 2024.

The Australian Navy already operates the S-100, having acquired the first systems in late 2016 to broaden its understanding of VTOL UAS. The system was accepted into navy service in April 2018. S-100 is operated by the 822X Squadron that was commissioned in 2018 and is based at HMAS Albatross near Nowra.

S-100 has a maximum take off weight of 200 kilograms with a 50 kilogram payload. It reaches a maximum speed 80 knots and has an endurance of over five hours.