The Government of Australia has agreed to invest up to A$1.3bn ($930m) in a new Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) development programme.

The programme seeks to improve situational awareness across Australia’s coastline and support maritime surveillance capabilities.

Under the programme, the Australian Defence Force aims to acquire unmanned air vehicles that will provide reconnaissance support and improve the response options of Royal Australian Navy ships.

Such air vehicles will weigh between 25kg and 300kg.

Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “As detailed in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update launched by the Prime Minister and I in July, Australia is at the centre of a dynamic strategic environment.

“Now, more than ever, defence requires an agile acquisition strategy to take advantage of state-of-the-art technology.

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“This acquisition heralds a new intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capability for Defence to ensure Australia keeps pace in this rapidly developing technology domain.”

Additionally, Australia will implement a five yearly investment cycle to upgrade the Maritime UAS capability starting 2024.

The government will issue an Invitation to Register to evaluate the capability of the domestic industry to deliver all components of the Maritime UAS. Detailed advice will be released on AusTender later this month.

Minister Reynolds added: “Developing sovereign industrial capability through projects like this is critical to enhancing Australia’s industrial base and maritime security.

“To ensure we are positioned to respond to future challenges, the Morrison government will continue to invest in Australia’s UAS industry through defence innovation and technology initiatives.

“This programme will provide opportunities for Australian industry to innovate, develop and grow.”

Last month, Australia signed a Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) Project Arrangement (PA) with the US.