An additional $399 million has been allocated for the development of Air Force's MQ-28A Ghost Bat uncrewed aircraft.

The Ghost Bat program has moved to its next stage, including delivery of three Block 2 aircraft with enhanced design and improved capabilities.

In announcing the funding in Canberra on February 9, Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said it will enable a focus on developing sensor and mission payloads, an integrated combat system and autonomous systems.

“But the majority of the funding will go into developing the unique Australian technology that allows the Ghost Bats to work together with each other and with crewed aircraft as one team to achieve their mission,” Mr Conroy said.

Ghost Bat is the first combat aircraft in more than 50 years to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia.

“We also have an agreement with the United States to share this technology and turbo-charge its development,” Mr Conroy said.

He said more than 200 Australian companies had contributed to the Ghost Bat program, demonstrating that, with government support, Australia’s defence industry could continue to be a world leader.

“The prosperity and security of our nation will always be a top priority for the Government,” Mr Conroy said.

"That’s why giving our Air Force the critical capabilities it needs to protect Australians and their interests is paramount.”

Australia allocates A$399 million for Ghost Bat development

The Australian government announced it has allocated an additional $399 million for the ongoing development of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat. The MQ-28A Ghost Bat, known as a Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), is being developed in cooperation with Boeing Defence Australia. It is the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. An entirely new technology, it is designed to act as a loyal wingman which will be able to protect and support our military assets and pilots and undertake a wide range of activities across large distances, including performing combat roles.

The government is now moving forward with the next stage of the program, including delivery of three Block 2 aircraft which have an enhanced design and improved capabilities. This funding boost will enable a focus on developing sensor and mission payloads, an integrated combat system and autonomous systems.

The additional funding also secures over 350 jobs across Australia and will ensure ongoing work for over 200 suppliers, supporting the local defence industry and further contributing to well-paid employment opportunities for Australians. The further development of MQ-28A Ghost Bat comes after the Government agreed with a Defence Strategic Review recommendation that options be developed for collaboration and technology sharing with the United States. In line with the Government’s response, Defence signed a CCA development project arrangement with the United States on 30 March 2023.

More than 70 percent of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat delivery program is being directed towards Australian industry content, delivering substantial benefits to local companies and their highly skilled workforces.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said: “This is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years and underscores the depth of innovation and expertise in our defence industry. More than 200 Australian companies have already contributed to the MQ-28A program, including more than 50 small and medium enterprises within the supply chain. This project demonstrates that with the appropriate support from government, Australia’s defence industry can continue to be a world leader and a key source of jobs. The prosperity and security of our nation and will always be a top priority for the Albanese Government. That’s why giving our Air Force the critical capabilities it needs to protect Australians, and their interests, is paramount.” Scott Carpendale, Vice President and Managing Director of Boeing Defence Australia, said: “The new MQ-28 Head Agreement continues our partnership with the Commonwealth of Australia, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Australian industry in developing this important Collaborative Combat Aircraft capability for Australia. Since achieving concept development to first flight in three years, we have significantly progressed the design engineering, manufacture and flight testing of MQ-28 Ghost Bat, and are applying those learnings back into our Australian production system to advance the capability. The latest agreement enables us to continue the developmental pathway of MQ-28 to prove the MQ-28 systems, including validating the mission system, payloads and operational requirements, which includes producing three Block 2 aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force.”