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Australia Cancels Tactical UAV Program

Facing repeated delays, Boeing Australia and the Australian Defence terminate the A$145 million acquisition for 'JP129'

The Australian government has cancelled the planned acquisition of tactical UAV systems from the Boeing Company, under Joint Program (JP) 129 program. Boeing agreed to terminate the contract and refund $6 million paid in advance. As a 'stop gap' solution Australia leased the services of Boeing Scan-Eagle UAVs and will seek a more permanent solution based on 'low risk' systems available on the world market. Originally, Australia selected the I-View after evaluating the Hermes 450 and Shadow 200 UAVs. (more...) (Current News)

The termination brings Boeing's 'cooperation/competition' relations with subcontractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to a new low. IAI developed the I-View platform to meet missions particularly suitable the Australia's requirements while Boeing offered its own UAVs on a service lease basis, serving the Australian forces deployed in combat overseas. IAI has benefited from this program as Australia became the launch customer for this new UAV system, designed primarily for the tactical missions. While the Israelis claim the UAVs have been delivered on time and met their objective, the integration of the system, undertaken by prime contractor Boeing Australia encountered technical problems and delays that lead to repeated Australian ministry of defence concerns and to the final termination of the program.

JP-129 was not the only Boeing program in Australia troubled by delays. In fact, the problems of JP129 are small compared to another program, the Wedgtail, lagging behind 38 month. The Australian government criticism of Boeing's aerospace group performance on local defense projects brought Boeing to announce major restructuring of its local subsidiary last month. David Withers resigned as Boeing Australia CEO, to be replaced by Jeff Worley, will act as vice president and acting managing director. New VPs were nominated for each of the company's strategic business areas – military aircraft, Network and Space Systems and Support Systems. The Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Wedgetail program manager Scott March will lead Boeing's military aircraft activities in Australia.