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Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman go head to head for AIR 6500 contract

written by Staff reporter | August 5, 2021
A file image of the MQ-4C Triton. (Northrop Grumman)
A file image of the MQ-4C Triton. (Northrop Grumman)

Lockheed Martin Australia and Northrop Grumman Australia have been shortlisted for the Commonwealth government’s joint JABMS project, aimed at enhancing the ADF’s air and missile defence capability.

The two major defence contractors have been announced as finalists in the race to deliver a sovereign next-generation Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS) for the ADF under the Commonwealth government’s $2.7 billion AIR 6500 Phase 1 project.

The firms are in the running to lead the development of capability designed to bolster situational awareness of air and missile threats, while also enhancing interoperability between partner nations.

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The down-selection follows extensive stakeholder engagement via the tender process, which involved an assessment of the respective integrated air and missile defence offerings proposed by contenders.

Boeing Defence Australia and Raytheon Australia, who participated in the first phase of the competitive evaluation process, have fallen short but are expected to continue offering support for the program.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will continue engaging with Defence and local industry partners ahead of a government decision in 2023.

“Through the competitive evaluation process, Australian industry has demonstrated its versatility and adaptability to provide innovative proposals in the challenging field of integrated air and missile defence,” Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said following the announcement.

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“The Joint Air Battle Management System will connect our ships, aircraft and other capabilities together in a way that multiplies their defensive power.”

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price congratulated the finalists, which she said demonstrated the “best understanding” of Defence’s capability requirements and a strong commitment to support Australian industry capability.

“I look forward to seeing the advanced technical solutions and prototypes that will be developed as these companies refine their final offering for the Joint Air Battle Management System,” Minister Price added.

Joe North, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand, welcomed the announcement, noting the importance of the project for Australia’s sovereignty and security.

“Since 2016, we have been highly committed to supporting the AIR 6500-1 project,” he said.

“Our Lockheed Martin Australia AIR6500-1 team has steadily grown over this time to over 80 Australians in Adelaide, Canberra and Williamtown.

“Critical to that effort has been our focus on proactively engaging and establishing important partnerships with Australian industry to identify and invest in ‘best of breed’ local capabilities to deliver a truly sovereign capability solution for Australia.”

The firm has committed to partnership with local defence companies, both large and small, to develop innovative solutions for AIR 6500.

Reflecting on the interoperability benefits of the next-generation JABMS, Steve Froelich, Lockheed Martin Australia AIR 6500 program executive, commented, “AIR6500-1 will make it possible to combine Australia’s integrated battlespace with the US and allied forces, ensuring greater situational awareness and increased interoperability for our military forces to combat evolving threats across the region.”

Christine Zeitz, general manager, Northrop Grumman Asia Pacific, also welcomed the announcement, outlining the benefits of the prime’s established local partnerships.

“Working with twelve leading Australian SMEs, like Nova Systems Australia, AOS Group and Daronmont Technologies as some of our capability partners, we will employ a highly collaborative ‘JABMS Enterprise’ approach, bringing together the best capabilities developed by Australia’s Defence industry,” Zeitz said.

Christine Harbison, vice president and general manager, combat systems and mission readiness, Northrop Grumman, added, “Our US team, in partnership with our Australian colleagues, looks forward to providing our advanced architecture that has been deployed successfully across a number of joint all domain command and control programs, including Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

“Our approach provides significant opportunities for enduring and innovative Australian industry participation in the ongoing design, development, integration, delivery and sustainment of the JABMS capability.”

Written by Charbel Kadib.

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