Heron to add to Aus­tralia’s un­manned ca­pa­bil­ity


Min­is­ter for De­fence Se­na­tor David John­ston an­nounced the re­turn of a Heron re­motely-pi­loted air­craft (RPA) to Aus­tralia as part of a plan to en­sure RAAF pi­lots main­tain the skills to op­er­ate un­manned aerial sys­tems un­til the in­tro­duc­tion of the Tri­ton.

“The Heron is a proven ca­pa­bil­ity – pro­vid­ing ‘eyes in the sky’ for our troops in the Mid­dle East,” Se­na­tor John­ston said.

“The re­ten­tion the Heron fol­low­ing their with­drawal from Afghanistan later this year will en­sure Aus­tralia re­mains at the fore­front of this ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy. This is pru­dent plan­ning for pos­si­ble fu­ture de­fence sce­nar­ios.”

“The re­ten­tion of two Heron air­craft will help cre­ate a ro­bust de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme to en­sure RAAF is well pre­pared for the Gov­ern­ment’s in­vest­ment in the MQ-4C Tri­ton,” Se­na­tor John­ston said.

The es­ti­mated cost of the Heron is $120 mil­lion over six years, in­clud­ing por­ta­ble ground con­trol sta­tions ini­tially based at Woomera, main­te­nance, lo­gis­tics, train­ing and ren­o­va­tions to fa­cil­i­ties at RAAF Base Am­ber­ley. The con­tract ex­ten­sion with McDon­ald, Detwiler and As­so­ciates will be funded from within the ex­ist­ing Air Force bud­get, through a re­dis­tri­bu­tion of tasks and pri­or­i­ties.

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