Australia is set to spend $7 billion AUD in buying a total of 6 unmanned spy drones that are able to stay in flight for over 24 hours.
The drones are classified for use in hunting hostile submarines and carrying out surveillance missions.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed that the Government would spend $1.4 billion buying the first of 6 remote controlled military drones. However, the first of the Triton drones won’t see operation for the next 5 years.
Once deployed, experts predict that the planes will be used heavily in and around the South China Sea.
The long-range of the drones means they will be able to fly deep into both the Pacific and Indian Oceans to detect enemy ships, illegal fishing operations and people-smugglers.
The drones are also pitched as being to fly as far south as Antarctica.
Christopher Pyne, the Defence Industry Minister, said that it was essential that Australia “know who is operating in our area” so that we could “respond if necessary”.
He also said that the new drones would expand Australia’s ability to survey the South China Sea and South-East Asia.
Mr Pyne said that Australia “insists on its right” to travel freely through the international waters of the South China Sea “as we have always done”.
The whole 6 drone fleet is expected to be fully operating by the end of 2025.
Any information the drones collect is set to be shared with Australia’s major military partners including the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The planes are set to be operated out of the RAAF base located in Edinburgh in South Australia. The drones are designed to operate in close proximity to the United States military.
None of the Triton drones carry weapons as they are purely designed for surveillance duties.
The 2016 Defence White Paper detailed a plan for purchasing 7 Triton craft, however the Government has since only announced it will buy 6. The planes will be purchased from leading US military manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
The deal also outlines a $200 million combined program with the United States Navy regarding the development, production and maintenance of the new aircraft.