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Lockheed searches for homegrown sustainment talent

written by Adam Thorn | October 6, 2022

Lockheed Martin has launched a new initiative to find Australian businesses that can help the sustainment of RAN’s expanding Seahawk fleet and Army’s proposed Black Hawk fleet.

The prime said it’s calling for potential suppliers with “homegrown talent and expertise” to expand its existing footprint of 200 personnel working on Sikorsky helicopters.

Interested businesses can register an expression of interest in its Australian Industry Capability Network (ICN) Gateway until the end of June 2023.

In September, RAN placed a fresh order for 12 MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo helicopters in a deal tipped to be worth over $2.5 billion. It adds to the 24 acquired from 2013.


The federal government is also mulling a purchase of 40 Black Hawks to help replace its troubled fleet of 47 Taipans.

On Thursday, Lockheed Martin Australia said it was calling for suppliers with experience in manufacturing of aero-mechanical components and aerostructures, aerospace component maintenance and repair, development of logistics and engineering management tools.

Chief executive Warren McDonald said, “We are committed to working with like-minded Australian industry partners to grow our existing rotary-wing sovereign sustainment supply chain to reinforce Australia’s industrial self-reliance and ensure cost-effective solutions for Defence.

“Through partnering with industry, we provide the opportunity to elevate their capability to the world stage and support industry to access global supply chains.”

Christopher Hess, Lockheed Martin Australia’s head of industrial development who leads the Office of Australian Industrial Participation, said “We are proud to have provided unprecedented opportunities to Australian industry engaging with over Australian 2,500 companies, introducing some 400 new companies to the defence industry space as well as facilitating over 150 export contracts since 2012. We look forward to increasing Australia’s sovereign rotary-wing supply chain base.”

Sustainment will be needed on RAN’s soon-to-be-fleet of 36 Seahawks, with new platforms arriving between mid-2025 and mid-2026.

The deal, which forms part of the Commonwealth government’s Project SEA 9100 Phase 1 (Improved Embarked Logistics Support Helicopter Capability) — is expected to provide the RAN’s Fleet Air Arm with a third Romeo squadron.

The Fleet Air Arm’s 725 and 816 squadrons — based out of Nowra, NSW — have accumulated more than 30,000 flight hours, deployed from frigates, destroyers and supply ships.

The helicopters have been sustained by Sikorsky Aircraft Australia Limited, also based in Nowra.

The deal for Blackhawks, however, is still unconfirmed, with new Defence Minister Richard Marles arguing the commitment from the previous federal government was “pretty fuzzy”.

“A process is underway that is evaluating that capability in terms of what we have now and what we need in the future. I’m not going to pre-empt it now,” he said, referencing the new federal government’s upcoming Defence Strategic Review.

Last year, the former Morrison government went as far as to send a letter of request to the United States so Australia could purchase UH-60M Black Hawks for AU$2.79 billion.

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