Morrison Government’s dying days defence acquisition
Written by: (Contributed) on 6 May 2022
(Above: A Schiebel S 100 Camcopter after test runs on HMAS Ballarat sports the Eureka flag which construction workers are persecuted for flying on building sites!)
The procurement, by the Morrison coalition government, in their dying days before the forthcoming federal election, of forty Austrian-made Schiebel S100 Camcopter drones, as the initial batch of a $1.3 billion program for the Australian Navy, was given little publicity in mainstream media.
It is not particularly difficult, however, to establish why the hurried decision was made by outgoing Defence Minister Peter Dutton.
As a Cold War military hawk, Dutton remains hell-bent on stoking the fires of diplomatic and military tensions against perceived adversaries of the USA and Australia: his narrow focus of attention is China. The fact the procurement took place without the usual tender process is also evidence of the actions of a man in a hurry to deal with diplomatic and military considerations.
In early May, literally a few days before the forthcoming federal elections in Australia, the outgoing coalition government announced the procurement of forty camcopter drones to add to their arsenal of military hardware. (1) The drones, manufactured by the Austrian defence industries, are set to be used by Australian Navy Arafura-class offshore patrol boats and Anzac frigates for 'intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting'. (2)
The Austrian-made camcopters had been chosen over similar US and British- manufactured drones; the Schiebel models are already operated by over sixteen maritime organisations on seventeen classes of ships world-wide. (3) The fact the drones can be adapted by governments to carry integrated sensor packages and other digital equipment for 'real-war scenarios', has shown the very real likelihood of a limited war taking place in the Indo-Pacific as diplomatic and military tensions escalate. While the camcopters have been described as unarmed, they can quickly be converted to carrying military devices for usual attack purposes. It should be noted that US-led 'targeted' drone attacks in the Middle East and Afghanistan have frequently been recorded as imprecise, leading to civilian injuries and deaths, including those of children. (4) So much for accurate surveillance and intelligence ...
Interestingly the Schiebel manufacturing company have also sold their camcopters to Russia and China, although the matter does not appear to have caused the Australian coalition government too much concern; the US military-industrial complex Raytheon has already been appointed as the 'system integrator' for the forty camcopters, noting they will be fitted with 'significantly different mission sensors to those used by other countries'. (5)
The procurement of the forty drones was also conducted without the usual tender process, which was conveniently explained away on the basis that the following of usual government procedures would have added a further eighteen months to the procurement processes. Such statements carry the hallmarks of a hurried decision taken by the outgoing Morrison-led government in Canberra, operating under the direct tutelage of the US. It would appear the Australian Navy has been provided with the drones for operational use in the very immediate future.
The fact the 'system integrator' is closely linked to Pentagon operations has raised serious questions about accountability for future Australian governments; the US continues to stoke diplomatic and military tensions across an Indo-Pacific region as a likely 'theatre of war'. The camcopters will be the eyes of US-led regional operations with telecommunications through Australian-hosted military facilities. The real-time transmissions will provide US-based Cold War military planners with the ability to stage limited wars in Australia's neighbourhood:
We need an independent foreign policy!
1. Dutton flies under the radar in drone deal, Australian, 2 May 2022.
4. See: Ten family members, including children, dead after US strike in Kabul, CNN World News, 31 August 2021, which contained an explanation from the US that the strike had been planned as 'a defensive air-strike', while a family had been eliminated.
5. Australian, op.cit., 2 May 2022.
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