Abbott wants drones to protect Australia

Tony Abbott has not given up on acquiring Global Hawke drones for surveillance.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has reiterated that a Coalition government would purchase drones to upgrade Australia's surveillance capability.

Abbott made the comments in a speech to the RSL national conference, stating the Coalition would immediately begin to purchase Global Hawke drones.

“Global Hawke unmanned aerial vehicles, which in a day can undertake detailed surveillance of 40,000 square nautical miles, could help to protect the oil and gas projects on the North West Shelf as well as allow much earlier detection of illegal boat arrivals,” he said.

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However, it is not the first time Abbot has expressed intents to acquire Global Hawke drones. In May 2010 Abbott stated a Coalition government would purchase three of the drones, according to a report by The Australian.

The federal Labor government has also previously shown interest in purchasing Global Hawke drones. A recent report by NBC News stated up to 66 countries would be eligible to purchase Global Hawke drones from the US.

Australia, Japan and Singapore have reportedly shown interest in acquiring the drones, according to NBC News.

In its Defence Capability Plan 2012 (PDF), the Department of Defence revealed it was intending to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles for maritime patrol and other surveillance.

The DCP 2012 details priority projects for Defence and contains 111 projects, or phases of projects, worth around $153 billion in capital costs.

The Global Hawke drones have been widely used by the United States government, with the US arsenal of drones increasing from less than 50 a decade ago to around 7000, according to a report by the New York Times.

The US is now spending US$12 billion on a Global Hawke program, according to a report by the New York Times in 2011, with the US navy looking to spend US$11 on a Global Hawke drone to patrol oceans.

Each Global Hawke costs around US$218 million, according to the New York Times, compared to $28 million for the Reaper drone.

The drones have already been flown in Australia for classified US missions from the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh in South Australia, according to Foreign Correspondent.

Computerworld Australia is seeking comment from the Defence Department.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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