Loyal defence 'wingman' drones get extra $399 million
Funding for a next-generation drone that will act as "loyal wingman" for the Australian Defence Force will be boosted by $399 million.
Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy on Friday announced the extra money for the development of the Ghost Bat uncrewed aircraft, building on a preview investment of $600 million and taking the total spend to almost $1 billion.
The extra funding for three more drones, which are being made by Boeing Defence Australia, will continue to support more than 350 jobs across the nation.
"This is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years and underscores the depth of innovation and expertise in our defence industry," Mr Conroy said.
"That's why giving our Air Force the critical capabilities it needs to protect Australians and their interests is paramount."
The next phase of the Ghost Bat program is to develop technology to allow the drone to work together and with other crewed aircraft, including the Super Hornet or Wedgetail to complete missions as one team.
The Ghost Bat is being designed to act as a "loyal wingman" by protecting and supporting Australian military assets and pilots.
Mr Conroy said he expected the drones to be tested at a demonstration exercise next year.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the coalition backed the investment.
"There's not only sort of a domestic benefit but this will enhance our global reputation," he told Nine's Today.
"It's a great outcome and we support it very much."
Under an agreement with the US, technology will be shared between the two countries to help fast-track the aircraft's manufacture.
More than 55 Australian companies are contributing to the Ghost Bat program, with 70 per cent of program spending going to local industry.
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