• Credit: Defence
    Credit: Defence

Defence has provided more information on its plan for the Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise through an Industry Briefing Session following the release of the Request for Information (RFI) last week.

The Enterprise will provide the 'enabling ecosystem' to support Defence’s inventory of guided weapons and explosive ordnance.

It comprises capability elements including manufacturing, research and development, education and training, test and evaluation, maintenance and repair, storage and distribution, and disposal.

Major General Andrew Bottrell, Head Land Systems Division, this week provided more guidance to industry on Defence's expectations for the program.

According to MAJGEN Bottrell, the Department is looking to leverage existing infrastructure for the Enterprise, including revitalised facilities in Benalla and Mulwala.

"It's much broader than just manufacturing," MAJGEN Bottrell said. "We'll look to consolidate a number of activities into a coordinated program of work. I've mentioned a revitalisation of Benalla and Mulwala, including new maintenance facilities, likely some manufacturing capabilities, test and evaluation, and disposal facilities as well."

MAJGEN Bottrell also emphasised that Defence ‘has not yet made any decisions.’

"If there's one message from today, it's that no decisions have been taken and that any suggestion otherwise is factually incorrect," MAJGEN Bottrell said.

In addition, Defence is likely to recommend more than one strategic partner for the Enterprise due to the number of extant guided weapons with IP owned by different entities, plus Defence's 'concerns' about the ability of any one company to deliver across the whole scope of the Enterprise.

"We're aware that industry has started to self-organise and that's fine," MAJGEN Bottrell said. "[But] we don't want entities to think they'll miss out if they haven't aligned with an organisation. The best opportunity you have to contribute is to register with my staff through the details in the RFI."

Defence intends to look outside Australia for IP to support the project and suggested that local subsidiaries of overseas primes exert influence within their parent companies to generate foreign capital inflows.

"The government is [aware] of the need to lead engagement with other governments to secure the IP required to underpin a guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise," MAJGEN Bottrell said. "But there is also a role for Australian subsidiaries  of overseas parent companies to be able to do that as well – to generate that interest and influence within their parent companies.

"If we take the US, for example, there is extensive government-to-government interaction that has been occurring for some time, but it needs to be replicated by messaging that generates a commercial imperative for US parent companies to want to invest in the development of an Enterprise in Australia."

A number of commercial models are still on the table and Defence says it remains open to alternative suggestions from industry as part of the RFI process.

The RFI closes on 02 August and Defence will approach government with an initial proposal on the Enterprise strategy and implementation towards the end of the year.

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