Pact With US To Help Australias Defence Research & Development

Updated: Mar 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
Participation in the US missile defence shield could boost Australias defence technology research and development, senior Defence Department officials have told a Senate committee, according to australianet.news.com.au. The two governments were already discussing plans for a memorandum of understanding that could include more R&D work as well as testing and evaluation of technologies. Australia is already involved in missile shield-related R&D through the Defence Science and Technology Research Organisations work with the US Air Force Space Commands Defence Support Program. The joint Australian-US facility at Pine Gap feeds missile launch information from DSP satellites back to the US.

Under the Deutch-Ayers agreement, 19 co-operative projects are underway, including key research into electronic warfare self-protection equipment. We have an aggressive programme with a range of US research institutes, which are also looking at activities within Australia, said Air Vice Marshal Kenneth Clarke, head of capability systems. Australian technology is of clear interest. Issues including computer network defence are currently being researched under the joint Technical Co-operation Program with the US, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada, the Senate committee was told.

Lucent Contract
Lucent Technologies, the largest US maker of telephone equipment, won a US Defence Department order worth $75 million over two years to help rebuild communications systems in Iraq, said a report published in Khaleej Times. The agreement includes an option that would stretch the contract to five years.

Lucent, which won a $25-million contract in August to restore telephone service in Baghdad, said the new project will begin immediately. The Defence Department earlier this month started dispersing money from an $18.4 billion fund to rebuild Iraq, following the US-led invasion. The Lucent contract covers construction, renovation, operation and maintenance of communication systems. It focuses on areas such as the public phone network, postal informationtechnology systems and wireless fidelity technology for Iraqi Telephone and Post Co.

Landmine Project
Just days after being welcomed in from the cold by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Libya seems intent on fulfilling its responsibility as a new-found partner in the war against terrorism, according to ABC Online. Its now considering investing in a high-tech British programme to eradicate landmines.

Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, is no stranger to the threat of landmines, the report says. Its for that reason British businessman Richard Branson is hoping his government will help fund a revolutionary mine eradication programme.

Richard Branson recently travelled to Libya to request the government to contribute to a clearance system being developed by his business colleague, and the founder of Mineseeker, Mike Kendrick. Kendricks radar systems scan soil, pinpointing the precise location of land mines from aboard a helium filled airship. Hes successfully tested the technology in Kosovo, and claims it could make a significant contribution to reducing landmine injuries and fatalities, of which many occur during laborious clearance processes on the ground. The technology itself was developed by the British Ministry of Defence, which granted Mr Kendrick a licence to implement it.

Security Spend
Just days after the Madrid bombings, the European Union unveiled a plan to boost the R&D spending on security-related technologies to 1 billion Euros per year. But can technology make us safer, asks electricnews.net.

The shock waves of the Madrid blasts were still rippling across the continent when the European Commission published a report called Research for a Secure Europe, which among other things calls for a boost in EU spending on R&D for technologies that could make Europe more secure.

The proposed European Security Research Programme (ESRP) will be used to help pay for the development of security systems and products to safeguard both people and infrastructure, within Europe and wherever EU missions are taking place. And it would seem that more than just lip service is being paid to the studys findings, with the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, saying that the requisite 1 billion Euros annually has already been set aside in the EUs financial perspectives for 2007 to 2013.

This report opens a new area of activity in which the added value of closer cooperation, joint efforts and increased investment at EU level is indisputable, Prodi said.

A need for closer cooperation and more spending on security may be indisputable but there is some question as to whether technology can provide the security blanket that Europes people want. So far, biometrics and even criminal databases have proven ineffective for plugging the cracks. it adds.

(Compiled from australianet.news.com.au, Khaleej Times, ABC Online, Electricnews.net)