Defence drops $46m on 80 bomb disposal robots

Australia will spend $46 million acquiring up to 80 bomb disposal robots for the Australian Defence Force under a new contract with Brisbane-based manufacturer L3Harris Micreo.

The federal government announced the contract with the company, a subsidiary of the global aerospace and defence giant L3Harris, on Thursday.

L3Harris also supplies the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence and United States Air Force with robotics systems.

Described as “world-leading”, the robots will “carry cameras and sensors that have an improved ability to find, examine and neutralise” explosive devices, helping keep Defence personnel safe in the field.

Image: L3Harris

The robots will replace an existing set, which have been in service for at least the last 20 years and were used in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Announcing the contract during a visit to Cairns on Thursday, Defence Industry minister Pat Conroy said the robots were just one way the government is support local industry.

“The new robots for the ADF, to be made in Queensland, are an example of building our local industry and workforce on innovative technologies,” he said.

L3Harris Micreo also secured a $63.8 million “electronic warfare systems enhancement” contract with Defence in January. The contract was the result of a limited tender.

Mr Conroy said the Defence Strategy Review (DSR), released last week, makes clear the need to improve the ADF’s ability to operate from Australia’s northern bases, such as Cairns.

In response to the DSR, the government plans to invest $3.8 billion over the next four years to strengthen the ADF’s northern bases, which are also located in Townsville and Darwin.

“Cairns will have a vital role to play in our future national security, as we reshape and modernise the Australian Defence Force to prepare for the strategic circumstances we face,” Mr Conroy said.

Last month, L3Harris, as part of a wider consortium led by Northrop Grumman, missed out on a lucrative contract to deliver Australia’s first “sovereign-controlled” military satellite communication constellation.

US defence giant Lockheed Martin was selected as preferred prime contractor for project, codenamed JP9102, by Defence in a deal that is estimated to be valued at up to $4 billion over its lifetime.

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