The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress of the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of two AAI RQ-7B Shadow 200 battlefield UASs and associated equipment to Australia, but the Department of Defence says no firm acquisition decision for the type, being considered under JP 129 Phase 2, has been made.
“The Government of Australia has requested a possible sale of two RQ-7B Shadow 200 unmanned aircraft systems, communication equipment to include four ground control stations, support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support,” the May 6 dated notice reads. “The estimated cost is $218 million (A$243m).”
However, a Department of Defence spokesperson has confirmed that despite the notification to Congress, “the Australian government has not yet made a decision to acquire the Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle (TUAV) system or any other TUAV system.”
Instead, the spokesperson noted, “Defence plans to present a business case for JP 129 Phase 2 for government consideration in the second half of 2010.”
Continued the spokesperson, “The US Congressional Notification has occurred to enable the potential sale but the details of the US Foreign Military Sales offer to Australia via a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) has not yet been received by Defence. The details of the timeframe for delivery of the systems will be contained in the LOA, and if the Shadow 200 system is chosen [entry into service, IOC and FOC] timeframes will be influenced by the availability of the systems from the supplier.”
Further details of JP 129 Phase 2 are noted in the Defence Portfolio Budget Statements for the federal government’s 2010-11 budget announced on May 11, which note: “Defence has finalised its capability requirements for this phase of the project, which places emphasis on operationally proven off-the-shelf systems which can be delivered in minimum time to support current and future operational needs. An analysis of candidate TUAV systems against capability, schedule, risk profile and cost has been completed, and an acquisition business case is being prepared for government consideration.” The budget papers note the two systems would be fielded in 2011-12.
The eight-nine hour endurance, IAI-Taman POP-300 electro optical/IR sensor equipped, rail launched RQ-7B is operated by the US Army and Marines. Built by Textron subsidiary AAI Corporation, it has a 6.2m wing span, a 35kg payload, a gross weight of 208kg, and is powered by a 38hp (29kW) avgas burning rotary engine.
The March 2010 issue of Australian Defence Intelligencer notes that the Elbit Hermes 450 is also “believed” to be under consideration for JP 129 Phase 2, offered by Thales Australia and BAE Systems Australia. The Hermes 450 and Shadow 200 were unsuccessful contenders for the original JP 129 TUAV requirement, won by the IAI-Malat I-View 250 bid by Boeing Australia, before the program was cancelled in September 2008.