- Periodical, RAAF News
- Ship design and development, Naval Intelligence
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Pirie II
- December 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The following article is an extract from a report in the November 2006 edition of RAAF News.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has successfully completed a trial aimed at assessing the ability of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to perform maritime surveillance over Australia’s vast North-West Shelf. The trial involved a Mariner UAV.
During Phase One, the UAV worked with the Armidale-class Patrol boat, HMAS Pirie, Coastwatch aircraft, and assets from the Pilbara Regiment to conduct surveillance and response missions. RAAF Base Edinburgh was the primary mission control site while the aircraft was airborne.
The UAV flew four missions over the North-West Shelf operating out of RAAF Base Learmonth, before returning to Edinburgh. Individual sorties varied from two-three hours to more than 20 hours. The UAV undertook a range of surveillance activities and collected data on vessels operating in or passing through Australia’s North-West approaches.
Data collected was transmitted to a ground station at Edinburgh for analysis, with the crew coordinating the UAVs operations with the patrol boat to assess how well the two could operate together to provide an effective maritime surveillance capability.
The trial will enable Defence to make a practical assessment of the utility of UAVs as one component of an integrated national surveillance network, and to assess the procedures for sharing surveillance information among government agencies to develop a whole-of-government response to Australia’s national security needs.
The trial will assist Defence in developing its requirements to acquire a long-endurance, multi-mission, unmanned aerial system under Project Air 7000. It will also assist the Border Protection Command, Immigration, Fisheries and Quarantine Services to assess the value of using UAVs for civilian coastal surveillance and border protection.
The trial proved complex, with the most significant challenge setting the UAV to work with a fully-integrated maritime surveillance radar. Defence’s requirement was for a medium or high altitude long-endurance UAV with the same type of ELTA radar as used in the AP-3Cs. General Atomics and ELTA had not previously integrated this particular radar on the UAV, so both companies spent a great deal of effort to produce a successful workable system.
(Note from the Editor of RAAF News: The obvious advantage of this system is that the crew will not have to keep bringing coffees up to the cockpit any more!).