The Australian government has axed its 1.3 billion Australian dollars ($980 million) MQ-9B SkyGuardian armed drone project.
Up to 12 General Atomics drones were to be purchased for the Royal Australian Air Force under Project AIR 7003 Phase 1, for which 10 million Australian dollars had already been spent.
Funds Reallocated for Cyber Project
The project funds will be reallocated to the government’s Project REDSPICE (Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber, and Enablers) to bolster the Australian Signals Directorate’s “offensive cyber capabilities.”
The government has committed 10 billion Australian dollars ($7.4 billion) to the project over the next 10 years, which reportedly includes doubling the directorate’s staffing.
The decision comes after the government confirmed the drone project in November 2020 despite doubts over the medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft’s capabilities “over urban environments,” Australian Aviation wrote.
General Atomics Reacts
The project has been scrapped on the advice of officials from the Australian Department of Defence, Defence Connect reported, citing an unnamed spokesperson.
General Atomics reacted to the decision by saying that the cancellation of the project “after nearly a decade of efforts toward that acquisition program was disappointing for a number of reasons.”
“Project Air 7003 offered a cost-effective, multi-domain capability that is deeply relevant to Australia’s future strategic environment. Equally disappointing, our many Team SkyGuardian Australia partner companies have invested in the start-up and future support for this capability in Australia and will lose considerable sovereign capability opportunities following this decision.”