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Australia Selects Naval Surveillance Drone for $900 Million

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has selected Schiebel’s S-100 Camcopter drone for the country’s navy for 1.3 billion Australian dollars ($930 million).

The DoD has not revealed the number of drones under consideration; however, an unconfirmed media report says up to 40 drones would be acquired.

The defense department selected the drone from a shortlist of five contenders for “Block One” of the Sea129 Phase 5 maritime unmanned aircraft systems (MUAS) program. The S-100 was selected for single source consideration without an open tender to speed up the acquisition process. 

The move has advanced the initial operating capability of the drone by 18 months, Australian Defence wrote, citing a DoD spokesperson. According to the outlet, the drone could achieve initial operating capability in six months.

30-Year Marine Drone Program

The 30 year MUAS program seeks “unmanned intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capabilities, with five-year rolling block upgrades that will incorporate new technology,” the outlet reported.

Block one will run from 2023-2028 and provide MUAS capability for Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) eight Anzac-class frigates and 12 Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV).

Block two will span 2029-2033 as the drones are deployed on RAN’s nine Hunter-class future frigates and other ships, including OPVs to “refresh” their MUAS capability.

Drone Features

The S-100 flies at a maximum speed of 130 knots (240 kilometers/149 miles per hour) and has a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles). It can remain in the air for six hours, extended to up to ten hours with an external fuel tank.

The drone has a maximum takeoff weight of 200 kilograms (441 pounds) and can carry up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds).

The navy has been operating the S-100 since 2018 when three unmanned vehicles were acquired to provide an “interim shipborne vertical takeoff and landing capability.”

Since 2021, RAN’s 822X Squadron has been operating it for experimentation and evaluation.

“The offered MUAS builds on the capability that has been provided by the proven Camcopter S-100 air vehicle currently in service with the RAN and is expected to create about 100 new Australian jobs,” the company said.

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