Defence has provided an update on Project Sea 129 Phase 5, which intends to acquire a new ISR and targeting capability for RAN ships through a maritime unmanned aerial system (UAS).
Phase 5 was originally divided into two stages – Stage 1 for a UAS to be deployed on the 12 OPVs and Stage 2 for a second UAS type to equip the nine Hunter-class frigates. The project structure was then changed to allow for a common UAS to operate from both. Now, the industry update provides a more specific outline of how Defence intends to procure the capability.
According to the industry update, the project is being undertaken with a five-year rolling block approach, with Block 1 running from 2024 and Block 2 and 3 from 2029 and 2034 respectively.
Block 1 will include first pass, a restricted request for tender and second pass. This block is intended to provide a UAS for the Arafura OPVs and Anzac class ships and will ‘refine Navy’s understanding of the capabilities that can be achieved using UAS.’ In Defence’s words, “Block 1 will focus on workforce growth, training system development, Combat Management System integration and payload development.”
Block 2 is an approach to market to develop, deliver and support a maritime UAS over the lifetime of the capability that is designed for the OPVs and the Hunter class, with the capability to embark on other ship classes as required. It requires the industry partner to provide 12 ‘bricks’, defined as “the required number of air vehicles, equipment, spares and tools to achieve the required rate of effort for a deployment.”
Block 3 is a system update according to the strategic environment of the day.
The project is expected to be supported primarily from HMAS Albatross with minor storage at Fleet Bases East and West as well as in Cairns and at HMAS Coonawarra. These are expected to be ready for Block 2 in 2029.
Defence expects to release an invitation to register next month.