The Commonwealth has reportedly bought 18 RQ-7B Shadow 200 tactical UAV airframes, two ground support segments and various training equipment to support troops deployed in Afghanistan.
Following a notification to the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in early May of a possible sale of the Shadow UAS to Australia, News Ltd publications have reported that an announcement of the $175 million acquisition was made by Defence Minister John Faulkner on August 2.
Following the 2009 cancellation of the Project JP 129 solution offered by Boeing and IAI, Defence had stated a desire to acquire “operationally proven off-the-shelf systems” as an interim capability for the stalled project pending a permanent solution being acquired later. “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,” May’s federal budget Defence Portfolio Budget Statements read.
The Army currently operates ScanEagle UASs leased from Insitu Pacific, and it is unclear whether the Shadows will replace or supplement the ScanEagles. While the Shadow’s airframe is larger and can thus carry bigger and more capable sensors and communications equipment, it only has a third of the 20+ hour endurance of the smaller ScanEagle and requires a cleared runway area to conduct arrested landings.