The Australian government has injected 400 million Australian dollars ($260 million) in additional funding for its MQ-28A Ghost Bat autonomous drone program.
The additional budget will allow Canberra to advance the secretive program and produce three more armed drones for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
According to the country’s defense department, the new drones will be in the Block 2 variant, which means they will have enhanced design and improved capabilities.
More specifically, the funding will allow for the integration of cutting-edge sensors, combat systems, and other state-of-the-art mission payloads.
“The prosperity and security of our nation will always be a top priority for the Albanese government,” Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said. “That’s why giving our Air Force the critical capabilities it needs to protect Australians, and their interests, is paramount.”
In addition to enhancing the capabilities of the RAAF, the additional funding will ensure more than 350 jobs across Australia and involve over 200 suppliers.
A Collaborative Combat Aircraft, the MQ-28A Ghost Bat is designed to act as a loyal wingman to fighter jets and other aerial assets of the RAAF.
It extends their in-flight capabilities by positioning behind a leading aircraft to perform reconnaissance and electronic warfare, or serve as decoys to draw enemy fire.
The drone can also carry weapons and participate in aerial combat operations.
According to Conroy, the MQ-28A is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered, and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years with the help of Boeing.
“[It] underscores the depth of innovation and expertise in our defense industry…” he said. “This project demonstrates that with the appropriate support from the government, Australia’s defense industry can continue to be a world leader and a key source of jobs.”
The Australian government had already spent 600 million Australian dollars ($390 million) for an initial 10 MQ-28A Ghost Bat drones.