Unmanned surveillance planes to guard Australian oil reserves
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Unmanned surveillance planes to guard Australian oil reserves

ABC Radio Australia News | September 6, 2004

The Australian government has announced plans for a trial deployment of unmanned surveillance planes to protect the country's vast North West Shelf oil and gas fields, off the West Australian coast.

The prime minister, John Howard is expected to reveal details of the plan on Thursday when he visits northern Western Australia.

The defence minister, Robert Hill, says there has been no specific threat.

Senator Hill says the aircraft being tested can remain in the air for up to 30 hours, and with modern sensors have a high level of precision.

"The trials we're talking about now - we're planning to trial these two aerial vehicles out of Learmouth in Western Australia over the oil installations - will give us a much better picture in terms of the value in purchasing that type of capability," he said.

Australia's main opposition Labor Party has welcomed the government's pledge to trial the unmanned surveillance planes as a security measure.

However, Labor's defence spokesman, Kim Beazley, says the government should skip the trial and just buy the aircraft.

Mr Beazley says the planes should also be armed.

"If they are going to be used in a counter terrorist context for an immediate response then that is obviously something you would have to contemplate," he said.

"I don't think there's anything in principle that's a problem with that - they are an unmanned version, if you like, of a surveillance aircraft and our surveillance aircraft are armed," he said.

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