Joint Australia-US defence work ramps up


By Peter Roberts

Deepening technological involvement between the three AUKUS partner nations is a key aim of the AUKUS pact with joint work between Australia and the United States escalating over summer.

Work is underway between the two nations on at least three areas – submarine development, hypersonics and the development of autonomous vehicle systems for defence use.

Australia and the US have worked together on hypersonic research for at least 15 years, in 2017 completing the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation, or HiFiRE programme (pictured) which involved a series of flight tests at speeds above Mach 5.

In 2020 the joint Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment, SCIFiRE was launched aiming to develop a Mach 5 precision strike missile powered by an air-breathing scramjet engine.

Now the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, Heidi Shyu, has told the Reagan National Defense Forum that Australia and the US have been deepening their partnership on hypersonics over the past year.

In May, Australia observed DoD’s Technology Readiness Experiment, or T-REX, which was held at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, which was followed by Shyu observing Australia’s Autonomous Warrior exercise.

Conducting joint experiment is a next step for the countries.

Shyu said: “We’re already in the process of working very closely with them to figure out who do we integrate some of our experimentations in Australia.”

In other developments the U.S. Air Force’s plan for drone wingmen to fly alongside manned F-35 fighter jets will accelerate in 2024, involving the use of Australian developed Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bats.

The Ghost Bats are being used to team them up with crewed aircraft, developing a number of potential missions including weapons strikes, surveillance, electronic warfare, or acting as decoys.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said the fleet of autonomous craft is ultimately likely likely to be larger than 1,000 systems, however any procurement decision is years off.

For the moment the US plans to test autonomous software on F-16 fighters under Project VENOM.

Further reading:
Hypersonic weapons research speeds up
US, Australia to sign SCIFiRE hypersonics agreement

Picture: Picture: University of Queensland/HiFiRE

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