Mark Corcoran ABC News
A senior Australian Defence Force officer has revealed details of how the Royal Australian Air Force deploys Israeli-owned drones for battlefield surveillance and to target anti-government Islamic fighters in Afghanistan.
Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan says Australia is “just buying hours” on the Heron drones from a Canadian company that in turn “leases them from IAI” (Israel Aerospace Industries), which is wholly owned by the Israeli government.
While enthusiastically endorsing the Heron’s capabilities, Wing Commander McMullan was highly critical of the quality of training provided by Israeli and Canadian instructors to Australian drone crews.
The unarmed Israeli Herons first entered RAAF service in Afghanistan in December 2009.
They are the centrepiece of the ADF’s rapidly expanding drone warfare capability that has so far cost an estimated $550 million.
Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra late last month: “I wouldn’t discount the fact that we might have armed UAVs thinking through our force structure review into the future.”
In this report, Foreign Correspondent’s Mark Corcoran goes behind the scenes of Australia’s drone war.