Defence Business: HATS on for KBR | ADM August 2011

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Gregor Ferguson | Sydney

One of the triggers for KBR’s emergence into the limelight here in Australia is Project Air 9000 Ph.7 – Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS), which will see Army and Navy helicopter aircrews trained under a new regime at an all-new facility located in Nowra.

While there has been considerable speculation over the timing and scope of Project Air 9000 Ph.7 (see p.30), KBR is positioning itself to respond as either a prime contractor or as a partner to another prime or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). The company won’t confirm its intentions  until it sees the draft RFT, according to Peter Robinson who is KBR’s director for defence and government services in Australia.

He told ADM that factors for consideration include  how the Commonwealth states its requirements for supply and sustainment of the aircraft – will they be leased or acquired? Government- or contractor-owned? Civil or military registered? The contractual vehicle selected by the Commonwealth will be ‘pivotal’ he said, in determining how KBR approaches the project and selects its partner(s).

While keeping a lower profile than more acknowledged rotary wing training and sustainment contractors such as Boeing Australia and BAE Systems Australia, KBR has been intimately involved in delivering advanced rotary wing flying training for the Army at Oakey. The company is a sub-contractor to Australian Aerospace, operating and maintaining the training program for the Army’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH).

“This is one of the most complex rotary wing training programs in Australia,” Robinson told ADM. The company’s 33 staff at Oakey have contractual responsibility for the training outcomes and developed the courseware for all of the aircrew, ground crew and technical trades as well as providing a range of computer-based and virtual trainers. The training effort to support the Tigers consists of 27 separate training courses which to date have graduated some 535 Army personnel, of whom 83 are aircrew.

The KBR scope includes Pilot, Battle Captain and Maintenance Test Pilot training, and the full suite of groundcrew and technician courses for a complete workforce to support the total ARH weapons system.  KBR also manages ARH training operations and the overall training system, and also maintains the courseware and training documentation using a modern configuration management application.  Finally, KBR also provides instructional support for flying instructor training, missions systems training and the NVD program. Part of this effort involved developing a Tiger virtual avionics trainer for Oakey – a spin-off has been the development of a similar MRH90 virtual systems trainer for the Army at Townsville.

This background and KBR’s ability to reach back to parent company expertise overseas equips it to bid for Air 9000 Ph.7 as a prime contractor, Robinson told ADM. Its bid is strengthened further by the company’s status as the only training company outside Florida to be providing computer-based training courseware and services to for Joint Strike Fighter air crew and maintainer as a member of the global JSF team.

But KBR’s current capabilities and  ambitions go well beyond the training sphere.

KBR is teamed with Rolls-Royce to manage the Amphibious and Afloat Support Integrated Materiel Support (AASIMS) program under a contract from the DMO’s Maritime Systems Division. This contract includes program and contract management, and the management of integrated logistics support, maintenance, configuration control, systems engineering and quality assurance for the RAN’s amphibious ships, HMAS Tobruk, Kanimbla, Manoora and its supply ship Success. Defence’s Group Maintenance Contracts (GMC) to manage the sustainment of whole classes of ships will see an RFT for maintenance and repair of the AAS fleet in due course. Until then KBR and Rolls-Royce will continue in this role.

The two companies have a close working relationship and see further opportunities in this sector, according to Robinson: “Collectively Rolls Royce and KBR have significant technical capability and management expertise in providing integrated materiel support (IMS) to platforms, systems and sub-systems,” he told ADM.

“We are very keen to pursue opportunities where we can bring to bear our combined skill of engineering management of complex assets such as military ships. This includes actively pursuing Integrated Materiel Support (IMS)-type opportunities with Navy’s new Largs Bay Class, the inbound LHD and other maritime platforms and systems.” 

Defence’s recent announcement it would adopt a Total Asset Management approach for its Maritime Platforms provides further opportunity for KBR and Rolls-Royce to work with the Commonwealth, he added. “We have developed some excellent processes, tools and value-based networks during our time working within the AAS SPO which could drive real sustainment efficiencies within these complex vessels.”

The company has a long history in Australia. Kinhill Engineers was formed in Adelaide by engineer Malcolm Kinnaird and was taken over by multi-national firm Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) in the late-1990s. For a while it was part of the massive Halliburton conglomerate, but KBR became an independently owned entity in 2007 and is establishing its own brand and track record as a global consultancy and engineering company, working for both defence and commercial customers. In 2010 KBR turned over some $377 million in Australia and employed about 2000 staff; roughly 10 per cent of this was directly defence-related, and the company wants to grow this share.

It is KBR’s overseas defence experience that has caught the eye of the DMO. At the ADM Congress in February this year the CEO of the DMO, Dr Steve Gumley, announced four pilot projects designed to contribute to the flow of ideas and demonstrate the potential for savings under the Smart Sustainment component of the SRP. One of these would involve KBR, reporting on international experience with defence reform. 

KBR was the first of the four pilot project contractors to make a presentation to the two-star level Smart Sustainment Steering Forum (SSSF). Company experts from the US and UK shared KBR’s experience on the UK MoD’s CONLOG and the Pentagon’s LOGCAP programs.

The CONLOG program has particular resonance with Australia’s needs. This contract was signed in 2004 initially to support operations in Iraq and is an over-arching framework under which KBR provides logistics support to deployed UK forces on operations and exercises around the world.

On the ground the CONLOG work includes creating and maintaining camp infrastructure, catering, providing and sustaining logistics and utility vehicles and even providing interpreters, if needed.

Importantly, says the company’s Peter Robinson, it includes a company planning cell embedded in the UK’s Permanent Joint HQ along with a reach-back capability from the deployed logistics team to KBR’s Leatherhead facility near London.

The benefits have been significant: KBR delivered eight concrete hardened structures to the Basra Coalition Operating Base, providing protected (against mortars and rockets) accommodation, dining and medical facilities for 1500 personnel. At Camp Bastion in Afghanistan the company has built a three-storey vehicle repair facility which means routine servicing and repairs as well as certain types of battle damage repair can be carried out on the spot; this greatly reduces turnaround times as well as largely eliminating the tortuous, high-risk process of moving vehicles by road to rotate them in and out of theatre.

Similarly, KBR established a water bottling plant at Camp Bastion which eliminated the risk and expense of trucking in supplies of potable bottled water from Pakistan and reduced the price from around £0.70 per bottle to less than £0.20. Another innovation born from the CONLOG relationship is what Robinson calls a ‘FOB in a Box’ – a Forward Operating Base architecture based on a set of plans and standards agreed in advance with the client. This provides a scalable template for rapid establishment of a temporary or semi-permanent base for 50 to over 500 personnel.

The potential for greater logistics work in Australia is enticing, especially given KBR’s work for Defence on JP2077 – the Improved Logistics Information System, for which the company has undertaken the capability definition process for the integrated materiel logistics information system element.

The company has proposed 3 other pilot schemes through the SRP process that it hopes will be of interest to the ADF and offer the Commonwealth the opportunity to achieve real logistics savings, Robinson told ADM. 

“The first Pilot leverages off the experience with the CONLOG program in the UK whereby a small team of experts sits with the war planners and fighters within PJHQ (equivalent to JOC/JLC),” he explained.  “This team works to solve operational problems by proposing tactical, commercially-savvy solutions within a rapid turn-around time.  The program enables concepts and innovation to be tested and then implemented rapidly, with competitions run where necessary to test the market.”

In Pilot 2 KBR would build on its previous experience in providing a vehicle maintenance facility for the UK MoD in Camp Bastion, which has proved the concept delives worthwhile efficiencies (the company is agnostic regarding platforms and products). A similar model could be applied to ADF vehicles deployed into Afghanistan.

“KBR’s experience over the past decade in the Defence environment has established a unique expertise and capability that enables us to deploy life support and sustainment solutions at very short notice and in austere environments, and in a modularised way,” Robinson says. This capability is now being recognised in the Resources industry and is very relevant to the ADF and is the basis of its Pilot 3 proposal.

But the training world offers many prospects also, says Robinson, and in Australia particularly KBR has a strong portfolio of defence and civil training projects – the latter mainly in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) area. On behalf of energy company Chevron and its joint venture participants, KBR is developing an entire, multi-lingual eLearning system to support the training of more than 10,000 people for the  Gorgon Project up on the north west shelf.

Relating this to defence, KBR in partnership with Blohm & Voss Naval and CRYTEK have developed the Virtual Ship Training and Information System, ViSTIS, which is intended  to train crews for the German Navy’s F125 frigates and U212 Submarines and is expected to  be used also on the RAN’s Canberra-class LHDs, in partnership with BAE Systems Australia.

The ViSTIS system will be used to prepare crews and embarked Army units; possible applications include familiarisation training, high voltage awareness training, damage control familiarisation, marine engineering familiarisation and scenario-based training for operation and maintenance of specific ship systems.

At a different level altogether, KBR has been working on the ADF’s recent SAP upgrade for systems integrator CSC. The KBR contribution has been to design and deliver a user training system to facilitate the transition of 5,000 users across 300 sites to ROMAN, Defence’s budget management system

There’s little doubt the Strategic Reform Program will challenge Defence and industry, but it does provide opportunities for contractors who have developed business models and operational solutions which match the SRP’s goals. It’s the growth of these opportunities, along with the prospect of a significant share of the ADF training market, which has brought KBR onto Defence’s radar screens.   

Subject: Air

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