In August, the Department of Defence shortlisted Lockheed Martin Australia and Northrop Grumman Australia as finalists for the AIR 6500 Phase I project, aimed at delivering the Australian Defence Force with a sovereign Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS).
Valued at an estimated $2.7 billion, the JABMS will play a critical role in the future of Australia’s defence apparatus. Not only is the program intended to bolster situational awareness of air and missile threats via defence’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) system, it is also aimed at enhancing the interoperability between Australia and partner nations. The final decision on the program is expected to be announced in 2023.
The recent down selection of the two primes followed extensive stakeholder engagement via defence’s tender process, which involved an assessment of the respective integrated air and missile defence offerings proposed by the contenders. The two shortlisted primes edged ahead of Boeing Defence Australia and Raytheon Australia, who also nominated for the first phase of the competitive evaluation process. Minister for Defence Peter Dutton explained that the JABMS will connect the ADF’s warfighting domains, thus enhancing their joint defensive capabilities.
“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 Dutton said.
“The Joint Air Battle Management System will connect our ships, aircraft and other capabilities together in a way that multiplies their defensive power.”
Defence analysts have reiterated Minister Dutton’s optimistic outlook for the JABMS. In 2019, ASPI’s Dr Malcolm Davis described the proposed JABMS capability as a “system of systems”.
“The fifth-generation force has to be capable of operating across, land, sea, air, cyber, EM and space, and that is a core component of the transition to the joint force. We have to have systems of systems, not just stovepipe platforms that are capable of connecting across a network and that is what is driving the AIR 6500 Integrated Battle Management program,” Davis noted.
Lockheed Martin Australia and Northrop Grumman are hotly contesting the project bid. In a statement to Defence Connect, Steve Froelich, AIR 6500 program executive, Lockheed Martin Australia said, “since 2014, LMA has been building our sovereign AIR 6500 presence by growing our Australian workforce across Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and Williamtown, establishing partnerships with Australian industry and investing in leading local capabilities.
In early December, Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) and Leidos Australia signed a teaming agreement, which will see the firms jointly design, develop and build advanced secure technologies under the Royal Australian Air Force’s Joint Air Battle Management Systems Project (AIR6500-1).
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As part of the collaboration, LMA – which is one of two primes selected to participate in the final competitive phase of AIR6500 Phase 1 Project – will work alongside Leidos Australia to develop capabilities that can be integrated into an open architecture framework, supporting application development for the project.
“LMA is committed to partnering with Australian industry, academia and government to develop an AIR 6500 solution powered by a sovereign open architecture connected to a tactical cloud. This will enable the ADF to rapidly integrate best of breed capabilities from Australia and the US to meet emerging operational needs and defeat future threats.
“LMA’s solution will be developed in Australia, by Australians, creating in-country capability and jobs for Defence industry. Our solution will generate exportable advanced warfighting technology to enhance our military alliances and support Australia’s economic growth.
“Fundamental to Northrop Grumman Australia’s proposed solution for AIR 6500 Phase 1 is our unmatched expertise in developing complex, multi-domain, multi-mission weapons systems, our team is led by Australians with local understanding of how best to partner with the Commonwealth, and our investment in sovereign infrastructure that allows for the transfer of US technology to support the growth of an Australian defence industry.”
Speaking on Northrop Grumman’s bid for the AIR 6500 project, Christine Zeitz, general manager Asia Pacific, Northrop Grumman said that the bid capitalises on the company’s deep global expertise in battle command capabilities.
“The Northrop Grumman developed Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) is the basis for our fifth-generation Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS) solution offering and it is game-changing technology already making a great contribution to emerging Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) capabilities for militaries around the world. The open, modular systems architecture Northrop Grumman Australia is developing will be the cornerstone of Australia’s integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) capability. It gives the Commonwealth the ability to bring in different C2s to allow the integration of current and future multi-domain capabilities and determine how they are integrated.
“With support from our US Northrop Grumman team, we’re working with our 22 industry partners, including 12 Australian SMEs, in the areas of sensors, artificial intelligence and deployable capabilities to extend to the broader Australian supply chain. We’re doing this through our investment in our sovereign infrastructure, Parallax Labs, a distributed secure capability that supports the transfer of US technology to our Australian engineers and into our supply chain.
“We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our industry partners through the phases of AIR 6500 to bring the best of breed solution from industry to the Commonwealth to build an enduring and innovative Australian sovereign capability for the delivery, sustainment and ongoing evolution of the nation’s integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) capability.”
Already, both contenders have begun to showcase their uniquely Australian supply chains for the project, and draw from their international pedigree in building a unique, robust and innovative defence system. 2023 will shape up to be an exciting year!
Article courtesy of Defence Connect.