The Australian government is about to spend $300 million on self-piloted killer drones

AUSTRALIA is set to purchase up to $300 million worth of armed “Reaper” drones from the United States.
Defence chiefs expect the controversial decision to equip the RAAF with the missile armed pilotless planes to be unveiled in a new Defence Capability Plan as part of the Defence White Paper due out later this year.

The government yesterday revealed that six air force personnel had already started training on the unmanned strike aircraft at two bases in the United States.
News Corp Australia understands that the air force is seeking eight unmanned MQ-9 Reaper aircraft made by General Atomics and two ground stations. The drones cost about $20 million each when fully equipped.

RAAF chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown told News Corp Australia yesterday that the Reaper was high on his list of priorities and he hopes it survives the fully costed White Paper process.
“It is certainly something we have put forward,” he said.
“I think Army is a big fan as well.”

Air Marshal Brown said opponents of the armed drone concept were emotive and did not know what they were talking about.
“I certainly don’t see any difference from dropping a bomb from a Reaper or an F-18.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Darren Chester said the technology had proven its value in the Middle East where armed drones had conducted numerous attacks against insurgent targets.

In rare cases, innocent civilians have been accidentally targeted by the unmanned warplanes.
“It would be remiss of Australia not to continue to develop our knowledge of this technology to ensure we are able to gain the greatest benefit from unmanned aerial systems and the best protection for our troops,” he said.

Unmanned aircraft dominate this year’s Australian International Airshow at Avalon near Geelong.
A 14.6 tonne US air force Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned high altitude long endurance jet touched down at 10pm on Saturday night for its first ever appearance at a civilian airfield and air show.

It flew 14 hours from a US base on Guam in the northern Pacific and was guided through the busy Melbourne area controlled airspace after lengthy negotiations between military and civil authorities.

Pilots at Beale air force base in California “flew” the jet into Avalon after diverting it around cyclones off northern Australia.
Australia is due to buy seven Navy maritime surveillance versions of the plane.

Director of unmanned aerial systems for the RAAF Group Captain Guy Adams said the plane descended over water and away from populated areas.
“Unmanned systems are here to stay and we shouldn’t see that as a bad thing,” Group
Captain Adams said.

He said some unmanned aircraft were already safer than piloted planes.
“The benefit to society far outweighs any negativity,” he said.

Meanwhile an $86 million contract to deliver satellite ground station by BAE Systems
has been added to the defence projects of concern list of shame.

It is understood that another troubled project — the Airbus Multi Role Tanker Transport — will soon be removed from the list after problems with a fuel transfer boom were fixed.



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