Australia's SkyGuardian drones shot down by spicy cybers

Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Australian government has cancelled the SkyGuardian armed drone program for the Royal Australian Air Force. The funding is being redirected to the newly-announced REDSPICE cybersecurity and intelligence program.

REDSPICE, the Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enablers program, is a flagship component of the federal Budget announced on Tuesday.

The program aims to double the staffing levels of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) over the next four years, creating some 1,900 new jobs. The total program budget is AU$9.9 billion over the next decade, boosting both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.

“This is the biggest ever investment in Australia’s cyber preparedness,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

However in Senate Estimates on Friday, defence officials confirmed that little of this is new money.

Of the AU$9.9 billion total, only AU$4.2 billion is budgeted to be spent over the four-year forward estimates period through to 2025–2026. And of that amount, only around AU$588.5 million is new funding.

A big chunk of the existing funding will come from the now-cancelled project AIR 7003, a planned AU$1.3 billion program to develop an armed remotely piloted aircraft system.

In November 2019, the government had confirmed that defence’s preferred platform

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