By Alasdair Pal
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will spend an additional A$400 million ($260 million) to manufacture next-generation military drones - one of a number of locally manufactured projects that will create more jobs, its defence industry minister said on Friday.
The MQ-28A Ghost Bat, designed and manufactured in collaboration with an Australian subsidiary of U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing, is designed to undertake a wide variety of functions, including combat roles, the government 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," defence industry minister Pat Conroy said in a statement.
The government has already spent A$600 million acquiring 10 of the drones.
Australia is attempting to manufacture more defence systems domestically, justifying the huge costs of projects such as the AUKUS military alliance with the United States and Britain by pointing to the jobs the projects create.
The additional funding for the Ghost Bat secures more than 350 jobs across Australia and will ensure ongoing work for over 200 suppliers, the statement said.
($1 = 1.5399 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney. Editing by Gerry Doyle)