From the Source: Harris Defence Australia MD Alan Callaghan

In mid last year, Harris bought Exelis for roughly $US4.5 billion, creating one of the biggest dedicated communications companies in the world. ADM Editor Katherine Ziesing caught up with Harris Defence Australia president and managing director Alan Callaghan to see what the business is up to in Australia.

Katherine Ziesing | Canberra

ADM: Can you give an update on what the business is up to in Australia?

Callaghan: Harris is heavily committed to its business in Australia and remains extremely optimistic regarding the future. An indication of this is our recent announcement of the establishment of Harris Defence Australia. Building upon the last ten years of very successful Harris tactical radio business with the ADF, Harris Defence Australia provides the opportunity to integrate the very broad capability and product sets offered by Harris Corporation with the products and technologies acquired via the Exelis ITT acquisition.

As part of this investment, Harris has established a presence in Canberra and we’ll be opening an office there in the coming months. The company is also leveraging the excellent technical capabilities provided by the Melbourne-based, legacy Exelis, C4I Division.

In terms of Harris’ current business; we are continuing to serve the ADF via our long standing JP 2072 relationship and very much look forward to furthering that relationship under Phase 3, for which we have been declared as the preferred tenderer.

Our Mature Support Contract with the Commonwealth has further developed as a construct for providing increased Product Support across other communications programs. As part of these initiatives, Harris has further invested in its collaborative relationships with Land, Sea and Air platform primes – as well as addressing developmental opportunities with DSTG, SMEs and niche OEMs.

The result of all the above activity has resulted in Harris outgrowing our Longland Street headquarters and commissioning a purpose built facility in Brisbane Technology Park. Harris will re-locate to this new facility in July/August this year.

ADM: What has the Exelis purchase brought to the Australian capability?

Callaghan: Exelis has bona fides in electronic warfare, in geoint, fibre, and space capabilities. It’s given us a much wider portfolio to address. As a major supplier to the US and UK militaries, the Exelis acquisition has widened Harris’ reach into a number of key legacy programs, including CVRJ (Force Protection ECM) and Maritime EW.

Further, as a result of the acquisition, Harris is a global leader in image intensifier tube production and a major supplier of night vision equipment to a variety of militaries, emergency services and commercial enterprises.

Profile | Alan Callaghan

  • 1969 Joined RAAF
  • 1987 Physics degree from University of Canberra
  • 1990 Masters in Communication Systems Theory from USAFIT – Air University
  • 1992 Retired From RAAF as Wing Commander
  • 1992 GEC Marconi as sales manager
  • 1996 RLM as sales manager/acting General Manager.
  • 1998 ADI in various roles. Left Thales Australia in 2003 as general manager C4ISR
  • 2003 Harris Defence Australia President and Managing Director Asia Pacific

ADM: Are there any legacy programs from Exelis that you’re now taking on board?

Callaghan: Yes, there are. Exelis has had a long pedigree of providing cutting edge EW capability to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). With EW equipment (processors, sensors and arrays) aboard FFGs, Collins Class Submarines, Anzac Frigates, the AWDs and LHDs, we have a number of programs we’re supporting.

Aside from a strong presence in Naval EW, Exelis has a number of legacy in-country distribution arrangements, for a wide range of capabilities and services. A good example of this is our GEO intelligence products division, producing commercial and military-grade mapping content for the Australian customer.

ADM: For readers who aren’t familiar with all the ins and outs of JP2072, can you give us an outline of what that program entails for you?

Callaghan: Harris was selected as the preferred tenderer for JP 2072 Phase 3. Phase 3 will provide the ADF with an advanced Tactical Communications Network, which will employ the latest multi-channel bearers with the latest proven wideband tactical
networking, network planning and integration technologies.

Importantly, the Phase 3 Network, will be tightly coupled to the work being conducted by Boeing under JP 2072 Phase 2B. Harris is a subcontractor to Boeing under Phase 2B, and Boeing is a subcontractor to Harris under Phase 3. This commercial relationship, the sharing of facilities, and the close collaborative relationship of the two companies is a major risk mitigator for the Commonwealth.

Phase 3 will ultimately network a diverse selection of Land, Sea and Air assets allowing data and applications to be rapidly disseminated and shared across all levels of the warfighter’s environment. As such, Harris is actively working with all the Defence platform cells and their relevant platform OEMs. Harris is also actively working with other agencies and SMEs to build in in-country networking capabilities.


“There seems to be a greater recognition that procurement is a continuum.”


ADM: Does the company have any role to play in Land 400?

Callaghan: Land 400 is clearly a program of critical importance to the ADF. As such, Harris is working hard with CASG, Army and with all of the shortlisted companies. We see our role as providing the Tactical Communications Network equipment and bearers in the platforms, working with our colleagues in Defence and industry to ensure that the platforms selected in Land 400 become powerful nodes in a fully networked environment.

Inevitably this will see Harris contributing to other facets of the program, including system design, co-site planning and installation expertise.

ADM: What is the company’s long-term view of the defence market in Australia? What are the opportunities there?

Callaghan: We see the defence market as having a very positive future and we believe that Harris’ technologies, products and its business model correlate well to the direction the ADF is taking.

Importantly, Harris has backed this belief via investment and taking the long term view in relation to its place in the market. Put simply; Harris is here to stay for as long as it can make meaningful contributions to national security and the operational capability of the warfighter.

Harris sees these contributions increasingly as being founded in partnerships between our company, the Commonwealth and the wide breadth of Australian industry. This collaborative approach will be absolutely critical if the ADF and industry are to reap the benefits of the very significant investments made in the procurement of (for example) Tier 1 platforms.

ADM: Defence has gone through a lot of transformation in the last 12 months. What has changed from the outside looking in for you?

Callaghan: I think the most visible transformation over the last 12 months is the growing openness and the evident willingness of the Department to engage in a more open and collaborative manner.

The recognition of industry as a FIC was an important confirmation. There seems to be an increasing recognition that sound relationships, based on trust, certainty, and mutual respect, are fundamental to establishing and maintaining long term partnerships between industry and Defence.

In particular, there seems to be a greater recognition by both parties that procurement is as much a continuum as it is a series of formal steps and gates.

This behaviour has resulted, at least in my experience, with a greater willingness to engage industry earlier in the process and remain an invested partner (via, for example, ODIAs and Risk Reduction Activities) in the definition, proving and evolving of solutions. I believe this bodes well for the warfighter.

Credit: Harris Defence Australia

ADM: Just touching on that point that you made before, how do you think industry will act now that they’re a FIC? What does that mean?

Callaghan: I am a staunch advocate of the First Principles Review, as I have held the view for a number of years that the Defence of Australia cannot be optimised by Defence, industry and Government all pursuing their own, individual goals.

The FPR clearly recognises this and seeks to invoke the ‘sum of the parts argument’. I believe this is a very significant step in the right direction and one that recognises that industry, which also includes ex-uniformed and Department civilians, has a great depth of non-pecuniary care and concern with how the long term health and operational capability of the warfighter.

I certainly believe that the ‘us and them’ paradigm has run its course and has not been of benefit to either party.

I believe that there is a genuine resolve, embodied within the FPR, which seeks to recognise the legitimacy of industry’s need for certainty and a reasonable level of timeliness and predictability in the procurement cycle. Unnecessarily protracted procurement cycles, with increased tendering costs generally results in Defence ‘getting yesterday’s technology tomorrow’ and industry ‘making a small fortune by investing a large one’.

These longer cycles are also irreconcilable to the need to acquire rapidly evolving capabilities: for example EW and cyber.

In summary, I am optimistic regarding the FPR and believe that Defence and industry will both benefit from the more mature relationship envisaged by the process. Most importantly, I believe that it has the potential for increasingly larger amounts of our Defence monies to be spent on things that truly make a difference at the sharp end – and not on outdated practices which deny immediacy to Defence and financial burden to industry.

ADM: Leveraging some of that work with Exelis, there’s a lot of maritime projects on the horizon; what role do you see for Harris in those?

Callaghan: I see roles for Harris in EW, electronic support measures, geospatial applications, edge devices and in communication networks. The magnitude of that investment, coupled with the desirability of local support, bodes well for any company prepared to invest, team and collaborate towards that objective.

The forward looking mix of the Harris business will be a mixture of supplying product where it makes sense; but also being part of Defence’s support infrastructure. I believe that KPI based support models provide a high level of product certainty to Defence and a level of business certainty to industry. I would expect to see this type of model being employed across all environments; not just Maritime.

ADM: What’s happening with Harris at the international level?

Callaghan: Well we’re still very active in Asia and we’re doing very well there. Back in the US, it’s been an exciting time in terms of a resurgent US market and we’ve had a couple of pretty major wins over the last few years with the US Army and the Marines. So the future for Harris is actually looking very, very good.

We have, I believe, very successfully integrated Exelis and brought the two organisations together, both from the IT/engineering processes and marketing approach. It’s actually a very exciting time for Harris at the moment.

This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of ADM.

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