Updated 3/4 1230
Defence has announced Lockheed Martin Australia as the preferred tenderer to deliver on a new Australian Defence satellite communication system, through JP 9102 Phase 1.
In a statement released on 3 April, Defence confirmed that Lockheed Martin Australia will progress to the next stage of the Defence procurement process, which includes 'engaging in collaborative tender clarification and improvement activities'.
Head of Air Defence and Space Systems Division, Air Vice-Marshal David Scheul, said the multi-billion dollar project would deliver Australia’s first sovereign-controlled satellite communication system over the Indo-Pacific ocean regions.
“Currently across Defence there is up to 89 capabilities which depend on satellite communications,” Air Vice-Marshal Scheul said.
“Once delivered, the new system will increase the resilience, agility and flexibility of Defence’s military satellite capability.”
Defence said the new satellite communication system will include: new Defence controlled and operated geo-stationary communications satellites; multiple ground stations across Australia; Integrated Satellite Communications Management System; and two new satellite communications operations centres.
“We are proud to be selected as the preferred bidder to deliver this critical capability to the Australian Defence Force," Warren McDonald, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand, commented. “This capability will provide the Australian Defence Force with robust connectivity and reliable information when and where they need it, and by extension, contribute further to the growth and development of Australia’s defence and space industries.”
McDonald added that a 'significant amount' of the content for Lockheed Martin’s proposed JP9102 solution will be via Australian small and medium enterprises and that the company is 'committed to knowledge sharing and technology transfer'.
Lockheed Martin has assembled a team of Australian companies including Inovor Technologies, EM Solutions, AV-Comm, Linfox, Shoal Group, Ronson Gears, Calytrix Technologies, Conscia, Clearbox Systems, DXC and Blacktree Technology to deliver ground and control segments and beyond for JP9102.
“We are excited to work with the Australian Defence Force and Australian industry to develop a robust solution for JP9102,” Robert Lightfoot, Executive Vice President for Lockheed Martin Space, said. “We are bringing to bear all of Lockheed Martin’s companywide capabilities as well as our commitment to supporting allied nations to provide an operationally proven system that meets mission needs in terms of coverage, capacity, resilience and extensibility of the constellation.”
Lockheed Martin has also partnered with the Victorian Government to establish Victoria as the engineering and technical hub for the company’s JP9102 solution, which it expects to create more than 200 advanced space industry jobs in the state.
The new satellite communication system will provide coverage from the central Indian Ocean out to the Solomon Islands from around 2027.
Lockheed Martin’s offer drew on its US experience providing four out of five satellite communications systems for the US Space Force, including the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
Four other companies created local teams and submitted responses to Defence’s tender: Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Optus (in a joint bid with Raytheon and Thales).
ADM Comment: More information on the bids for JP 9102 can be found in our feature article from the Dec/Jan print issue, available here.
The Commonwealth’s current SATCOM capabilities include a payload on the Optus C-1 satellite, launched in 2003; access to UHF communications channels through Intelsat IS-22, a commercial satellite; and proportional access to the WGS network, which Australia gained by paying for WGS-6 (New Zealand contributed to the cost of WGS-9). Now Defence is seeking to gain a sovereign SATCOM solution and reduce its dependence on American tech through JP 9102, now to be delivered by Lockheed Martin.
LMA told ADM that its experience operating its Tracking, Telemetry and Command ground station in Uralla, combined with an understanding of the threat environment through overseas work, informed its offer for a current design for JP 9102, rather than a legacy design.
Another point of interest on this selection is it will now reduce Airbus' presence in Australia even further. Airbus once provided a number of platforms to the ADF, but as those are replaced, its presence (ADM understands) will soon consist predominantly of sustainment contracts.
To what extent this is the fault of Airbus or the Commonwealth's entrenched dissatisfaction with the company is up for debate: but American primes are increasingly filling the gaps in the defence market. Dependence on American tech, it seems, is a hard habit to kick.