The man-packable Wasp AE micro air vehicle will be acquired through XTEK, and will be modified with Australian content by companies such as Sentient Vision Systems and Mediaware.
This first tranche of the sUAS capability is being funded to the tune of $101 million to meet an immediate need. The second tranche will upgrade the Wasp AE or acquire a replacement system within the next decade.
“Similar systems, including the Skylark, have been used by our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq with tremendous success,” said Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne. “They provide our military with a faster and better understanding of the battlefield than our adversaries.”
Local industry content is valued at about $11 million for the acquisition, plus up to $4 million each year for sustainment, with the majority of maintenance and support activities set to be carried out in Australia by XTEK.
“XTEK will work with Defence to progress towards signature of a contract for the sUAS as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement. “The announced investment includes an amount for management of the contract by the Australian Defence Force.”
The LAND 129 Phase 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle project was listed as being in development for second pass approval consideration in 2016-17 in the Portfolio Budget Statements 2016-17.
XTEK stated in April 2016 that it had been selected as the preferred tenderer for LAND 129 Phase 4.
The hand-launched Wasp AE weighs just 1.3kg and has a 102cm wing span. It has a 50 minute endurance, cruises at 20kt, has a 5km range within line of sight (or further with a datalink relay) and carries an EO and IR camera.