Updated 04 April, 0650
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) confirmed that Defence has advised it will not proceed with its Air 7003 Skyguardian project.
"The cancellation is disappointing for a number of reasons. Project Air 7003 offered a cost effective, multi-domain capability that is deeply relevant to Australia's future strategic environment," a GA-ASI spokesperson said. "Equally disappointing, our many Team Skyguardian Australia partner companies have invested in the start-up and future support of this capability in Australia and will lose considerable sovereign capability opportunities following this decision."
Air 7003 would have provided the RAAF with an armed medium altitude, long-endurance MQ-9B Skyguardian (MALE) remotely piloted platform and the decision would appear to be hastily made and ill-timed given the success of Ukraine's RPAs against Russian armour in the current conflict in their country.
ADM understands that as recently as last week GA-ASI and Team Skyguardian partners Cobham were actively recruiting Australians to meet the Commonwealth’s proposed delivery schedules and the news therefore comes as a major surprise.
In his analysis of Wednesday’s Federal budget, ADM Group Editor Ewen Levick, asked where the axe would fall in order to pay for the massive increase in cybersecurity spending for the Australian Signals Directorate. It would seem the first blow has already been struck.
In response to questions from ADM, a Defence spokesperson said:
"Defence can adjust and reprioritise the Integrated Investment Program (IIP) for new and emerging priorities.
Based on advice from Defence, the Government has decided to not proceed with Project Air 7003 - Armed Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.
The decision allows Government to allocate that money to expand our response to attacks against Australia online through the REDSPICE program."