Australia’s long coast is also its border, and they’ve taken an innovative approach to the problem. Unlike, say, the US Coast Guard, Australia has semi-privatized the coastal patrol function, placing contractors under the Customs service. Once intruders are detected, these contractors can then call on pre-arranged support from civil authorities and/or the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force. Contracted services of this nature are becoming more common around the world, but Australia was really breaking new ground when they began Coastwatch on such a large scale in 1995.
Coastwatch was re-competed, and in 2006, Cobham’s subsidiary Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd retained the contract through the A$ 1+ billion next phase, called Project Sentinel. The new contract under Australia’s CMS04 (Civil Maritime Surveillance 04) program has expanded the fleet and addressed some concerns, but there are still areas where Australia lags a bit behind the leading edge. Even so, Coastwatch remain a touchstone program for countries considering a similar path.