Coalition still gunning for North West Shelf drones

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Coalition still gunning for North West Shelf drones
An RQ-4 Block 10 Global Hawk flying over mountains and desert (courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

Flyovers to protect oil and gas interests.

The Coalition has reiterated a two-year-old pledge to buy a fleet of Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk drones to protect oil and gas interests off Western Australia.

The massive military-grade drones are sold for "upwards of US$220 million" (A$212 million), according to a report by Dailytech. The figure meshes with a US$899 million quote for four of the machines given to South Korea, which works out at US$224 million an item.

Addressing the 2012 RSL national conference, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a future Coalition government "would immediately start the process of acquiring a number" of drones, specifying the Global Hawk.

He previously made an almost identically-worded pledge in May 2010.

As with the previous pledge, the drones would also be used to detect "illegal boat arrivals".

Abbott did not say how the proposed purchases would be bankrolled.

However, ABC Radio reported earlier this month that Australia's Defence force was trying to resurrect a plan to buy seven of the latest Global Hawk drones, at a cost of between $2 billion and $3 billion.

The report said that an initial plan to buy 12 of the craft by the Howard Government had been scuttled in 2009.

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