26 Oktober 2016
Wasp III UAS (photo : NDIA)
Several companies have teamed up to deliver a small, unmanned aerial vehicle — currently operated by U.S. Air Force special forces — to the Australian military.
AeroVironment — working alongside Sentient Vision, General Dynamics Mediaware and Australia-based XTEK — is offering the Wasp AE micro air vehicle to the Australian army and special forces. XTEK is the preferred tenderer for the contract, which has not yet been awarded, AeroVironment said.
The Wasp AE — an updated version of the Wasp III — was jointly developed between AeroVironment and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command to provide beyond-line-of-sight situational awareness. If selected, the Wasp AE will deliver intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for ground and maritime operations for the Australian military, the company said.
Dave Sharpin, vice president for business development at AeroVironment, said the Wasp AE can benefit the Australian armed forces’ current unmanned aerial vehicles, like AAI’s RQ-7B Shadow 200, which is used by the U.S. armed forces, among other nations.
The payload delivers advanced imagery, even in windy conditions, and can be operated manually or programmed for autonomous operations. It has a communications range of 5 kilometers and flight endurance of 50 minutes.
The Australian government has been looking to grow its unmanned systems capabilities for a number of years, said Charles Forrester, a senior defense analyst with IHS Jane’s.
“With the Australia Defence Force having to operate across broad expanses at home, both on land and at sea, unmanned systems give the Australian military the flexibility and capability to carry out some difficult tasks at a reduced cost in testing environments,” he said.
The government’s 2016 defense white paper identified areas where UAVs could be useful in the future force, with planned procurements of drones across all domains, he said. Forecasters at IHS Jane’s predict the Australian government could invest over $192 million in unmanned aerial vehicles across the forces through 2025.
The Royal Australian Air Force is also in the process of acquiring Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton, an unmanned maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft currently being built for the U.S. Navy, Forrester said. It will be deployed alongside the Boeing P-8A Poseidon, which the Australian government recently began operating.