The Ministry of Defence is poised to go shopping for proposals on acquiring drones, as well as look at buying about $1 billion worth of maritime helicopters.
A tender for proposals for replacing its Seasprite choppers will go out shortly, deputy secretary of defence policy and planning Richard Schmidt told RNZ.
"The request for information will be seeking proposals for both naval helicopters and uncrewed aerial vehicles.
"It is a market research tool to support next steps and provides an opportunity for industry to provide information on options. No decisions have been made."
The Seasprites are due to be replaced around 2028.
The existing chopper fleet for the frigates cost only a quarter of the new proposal, acquired at a cut-price around a decade ago after Australia cancelled an order for the eight Seasprites New Zealand ended up getting.
A defence plan in 2019 put the indicative cost of replacement at more than $1 billion, and said: " Initial thinking on the replacement helicopters will need to determine the primary role of the aircraft."
The New Zealand Herald last July reported the ministry planned to buy dozens of drones.
[https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/487344/aukus-needs-to-pool-tech-resources-as-us-edge-erodes-australian-intelligence-chief Reuters has reported an adviser to the US Defense Department told a Sydney conference earlier this month that China was organised partly around drones, and this should influence Australia's military spending decisions.