Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) has taken delivery from the Varley Group of the first two of 29 specialist deployable facilities that will support the RAAF’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and also have significant export potential.
Under a three year, $37.5 million contract signed with LMA in June 2017, Tomago-based Varley is producing 22 Deployable Duty Facilities and seven Deployable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Facilities.
Designed and built to demanding RAAF specifications, these will not only provide the RAAF with a unique resource to enhance the F-35As’ operational capabilities from bare bases in Australia’s north, but may also play an expanded role in operating deployable information support systems for the RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and P-8A Poseidons.
LMA CEO Vince Di Pietro told an official handover ceremony that the two facilities represented a world-first capability that would transform support and maintenance activities for F-35A aircraft in the field.
The ICT shelter will provide secure communications including a link to the F-35’s vital ALIS (Autonomic Logistic Information System) that facilitates predictive prognostic maintenance support. Up to six Duty shelters, each providing an acoustically and electronically-secure environment for mission planners, pilot briefings and post-mission analysis, can be expanded and linked to a single ICT facility.
If necessary the basic structure can be delivered in ‘flatpack’ form.
Over the next two months LMA will complete a technology fitout of the first two shelters, each the size of a standard ISO IC container.
Once completed and accepted by the RAAF, both will be deployed to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. There they will be used to support all operations and maintenance of the first two RAAF F-35As planned for delivery to RAAF Williamtown late this year, and will return to Australia with those aircraft.
Neale Prescott, LMA’s Business Development Manager, confirmed interest from the UK “and other countries” in the deployable facilities.
He also disclosed that further talks with the RAAF were imminent on the possibility of the facilities, when appropriately equipped, supporting other RAAF platforms, particularly ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) assets.
Varley Chairman and Managing Director Jeff Phillips confirmed that the innovative IP created for the deployable shelters would create defence export opportunities.
Disclosing the company now employed 150 staff in the US in addition to the 800-strong workforce in Australia, Phillips envisaged a rapid rise for Varley on its current 41st place in ADM’s defence contractor rankings.