Press Conference at Edinburgh

16 Nov 2018 Transcipt


Press conference audio

16 November 2018

SUBJECTS: General Atomics Reaper

UNNAMED SPEAKER: … and member for Sturt to announce this important selection of an aircraft system to support the capability of requirements of the ADF. Minister.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you very much Craig, to you, to my parliamentary colleague Lucy Gichuhi and to Joe Song representing General Atomics from the United States. Today I announced that the General Atomics Reaper has been selected by the Government as the system with the best means and the capability requirements for Australia’s first, armed, remotely-piloted aircraft system. With the 2016 Defence White Paper the Government committed to introducing an armed, medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely-piloted aircraft system in the 2020s, at an acquisition cost of between $1 billion and $2 billion depending on negotiations with General Atomics, between 12 and 16 aircraft.

Today’s announcement is obviously a very important step in that process. The General Atomics platform will be fully interoperable with our United States and other allies and has the ability to provide a continuous surveillance and precision strike capability to be integrated in existing Australia Defence Force systems. The aircraft can be used to watch and protect the ADF and Coalition land forces and provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support for search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Remotely piloted aircraft can observe area of interest for much longer than manned reconnaissance aircraft and allow our military commanders to make informed decisions faster whilst providing the option to conduct strike and reconnaissance operations without risking the safety of aircrew.

There’ll also be an important role for Australian industry providing facilities and information and communications technology to infrastructure to support this acquisition. So I’m pleased that General Atomics has partnered with companies such as Cobham, CAE, TAE, Raytheon and Rockwell Collins, Quick-step, AirSpeed, Ultra Electronics, SentientVision, and Flight Data Systems as part of this announcement, many of whom are represented here today and many of whom of course are based in Adelaide.

This announcement of course is also another piece of the broader intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance precinct that’s being developed here at the RAAF Edinburgh super base. For example, I’ve just toured the brand new P-8A Poseidon training facility, an investment of over $550 million which the previous Minister for Defence opened in mid-August. The ongoing work behind us is very important. It’s creating very significant jobs and a total of almost 4500 people who have undergone induction work to work on this site to date and 700 people have been employed in its construction.

As well that our new Triton unmanned aircraft will be based here at Edinburgh with a further $262 million of Australian industry and investment and infrastructure to support them, including 50 ongoing jobs. At our world-leading JORN, the Jindalee over-the-horizon-radar-network is being controlled here from Edinburgh, we announced a billion-dollar upgrade for the JORN not long ago at around $365 million of this investment is being spent here at Edinburgh. And that upgrade will require a highly-skilled Australian workforce of over 500 people, almost all of whom will be based here in Edinburgh.

So not that long ago as an Adelaidian I used to think of Edinburgh as a base that we were considering whether it would continue into the future, whether it would be closed down and merged with other bases around Australia, but now because of this government’s investments over the last five years has become one of our two super bases along with Amberley in Queensland. You can see when you drive around Edinburgh, the newness of so many of the buildings is testament to the fact that there was a long period when many of the people here in the Air Force and the Defence Industry would have worked in old facilities, facilities that found- many of them have been removed- for asbestos and other reasons but we had to make a decision about whether the RAAF Edinburgh would become a super base or not and significant platforms like the Poseidon, Triton, potentially the Reaper are either being based or could be based here at Edinburgh. Land forces have been based here now at Edinburgh including first brigade. Much of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Australia’s ADF is based here at Edinburgh.

It’s a really important capability and the numbers that we’ve talked about which now amount to well over $1 billion of infrastructure investment, the number of jobs being created and number of personnel being trained, here and operating out of here, makes Adelaide a really important part, a very significant piece in our Australian Defence Force Capability. So I’m very pleased to be here to be able to announce the Reaper being our unnamed aerial vehicle of choice in terms of a remotely-piloted aircraft. It will be mostly used of course for surveillance, reconnaissance, and humanitarian and disaster relief but it does have a weaponised capability which can be used to strike targets if necessary in a war-like situation. It’s a step up for the Australian Defence Force. It’s not a capability that’s common to our region which gives us a very significant capability and most importantly it means that we can work as closely with the United States in these kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles for the future as we have in so many other parts of our defence relationship with the US. So it’s great to be here. Thank you very much for coming and putting on this opening and I think it’s a very important announcement for the continuation of our – build-up of our ADF capability. Thank you.