Controversial drone deal approved by Peter Dutton being ‘carefully’ examined

A controversial decision by former Defense Secretary Peter Dutton to authorize a multi-billion dollar purchase of reconnaissance drones, also used by Russia and China, is being “closely scrutinized” by the Albanian government, which has hinted it could eventually be scrapped.

Schiebel, the Austrian company chosen for the exclusive supply deal, has also been accused by human rights groups of supplying its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Myanmar in apparent violation of EU sanctions.

The Australian military is already using S-100 Camcopter technology, with the recent order for a Maritime Tactical Unmanned Air System to provide “intelligence, reconnaissance and target acquisition” on the Navy’s Arafura-class offshore patrol boats and Anzac-class frigates .

The Austrian unarmed helicopter drones were selected by the Morrison government for Project SEA129 Phase 5 just days before the caretaker period for this year’s elections and after abandoning a competitive evaluation process that included competing American and British bids.

US defense giant Raytheon has been named “systems integrator” for Project SEA129 Phase 5, with the defense insisting the S-100 camcopter system is in international service.

“Defense has robust processes in place to ensure that no deployed platforms create vulnerabilities,” a Defense Department spokesman told ABC.

“In the case of the S-100, working with Raytheon Australia as Prime System Integrator, all relevant systems would be tested and approved to ensure an adequate level of protection was in place.”

Details of the Department of Defense’s deal with Schiebel and Raytheon are being kept top secret, but the overall deal is estimated at more than $1 billion.

In recent years, the S-100 camcopters have been purchased by the Chinese military for use on PLA Navy guided missile destroyers and licensed by Russia for civilian use.

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