Babcock Australasia and Lockheed Martin Australia have announced the signing of a collaboration agreement to team on the ADF’s Enhanced Defence High Frequency Communications System (EDHFCS) under Joint Project 9101.
“We offer better value for money by drawing on our combined capability and capacity to deliver a sovereign solution that provides a performance edge to the ADF,” Babcock Australasia’s Managing Director – Land, Graeme Nayler. “We offer more than other vendors by providing more than just equipment. Our partnership delivers a unique combination of customer-centric, trusted service delivery together with a proven technological solution.”
In NZ, Babcock was recently awarded the contract to provide enhanced HF radio communications to the NZ Defence Force by 2023 together with a second contract to deliver through-life-support for the 20 years to follow.
In the UK, Babcock has provided a Defence High Frequency Communications Service to the UK Ministry of Defence for 18 years and welcomes the prospect of HF service delivery to the US and Canada when the opportunity arises in future, serving all nations of the Five Eyes Alliance.
“Our capability probably already meets in the UK a significant proportion of the Australian requirements, and this is on a very specific part of the capability,” Nayler explained to ADM. “NZ contract bridges another significant component to effectively de-risk the remainder of the program. So for us it’s a very mature capability and the architecture is remarkably similar. I think what’s good for us and the team is our system is an open architecture, which means we’re not really tied to specific boxes or technologies, we’re able to plug and play and evolve as the Defence customer needs change over time.”
Lockheed Martin Australia’s Rotary and Mission Systems Business Development Director, Neale Prescott, said the partnership unites the breadth of experience and technical heritage in HF technologies.
“Our collaboration ensures we will remain focused on delivering cutting edge HF technology solutions that are effective and interoperable and will ultimately best support the ADF’s critical missions” he said.
“We’ve been doing HF related radar technology in Australia since about 1997, originally in the design and then the actual fielding of JORN, which went operational in 2002,” Prescott said to ADM.
The team is also looking to work extensively with the local supply chains to make sure that the Australian Industry Capability (AIC) segment of the program is addressed.
“The whole solution being designed around AIC,” Nayler said. “So for instance, the core software that has been largely developed in the UK, as I said, will be further developed through NZ into Australia. That development and IP will be given essentially to Australian Defence. But all the technology pieces, other than those very specific boxes that aren’t yet made here in Australia, all of our various suppliers and sub-system partners are all Australian.
“From a Babcock and Lockheed perspective, all the team that will be delivering it here in Australia from Babcock are Australian. We might have one or two SMEs from the UK or NZ just to support some of the knowledge transfer and, again, we’ve engaged Lockheed Martin Australia because they hold all the keys in terms of people.
“The other thing too, remember this is a life of type program, so after delivering the initial tranche of capability, we are committed to developing more local technologies into those various areas to support the capability over life of type.”
The request for tender for the program ended on 28 February 2020. ADM has previously reported that BAE Systems and incumbent Boeing have teamed to address the program, but other contenders have not broken cover at this point.
While is it is not known when the Commonwealth of Australian will announce the preferred bidder, the anticipated date is mid-2021. The effective date (the date contracts for acquisition and support of the HF system will be signed) is Q2 2022 i.e. June 2022.
Given the nature of the legacy system in place the operative date, the successful contractor has to have completed work required to take over responsibility for the HF system/network in 2023, with Initial interoperability capability (IOC) in 2025 and Final interoperability capability (FOC) date in 2030.
Given the issues that the legacy program had under HF mod as a Project of Concern, both Prescott and Nayler are up front in the challenges of the technology and complex nature of the program that will touch on a number of other joint and service programs also on the horizon.
“We do a lot of analysis through the ANAO report and obviously significant discussions with the customer over probably the last 10 years,” Nayler said to ADM. “I think the set of requirements and the understanding of the customer is now well understood, which has been a traditional area of improvement for industry. I think like most programs and Projects of Concern the way that all parties, play together to resolve problems is critical. We’re well known for our collaborative behaviours and with the Commonwealth we’ll be putting essentially a program of works around collaborative behaviours under the 44001 Standard that we have done with LHD.
“In addition, leading edge not bleeding edge. In the solution that we’ve put forward is, again, a gradual and logical build-up of technology. But there are also logical new technology insertion points to ensure that continuity of service is maintained and that’s a key risk for the Commonwealth; that they don’t lose service over any part of the program.”
“I think there are some tool sets and techniques that are relevant, things like model based systems engineering,” Prescott said. “What they give us is the capacity to do is implement what Graeme was talking about with requirements; we can actually be more definitive early and we can actually run accurate models that represent performance.
“There are a number of techniques we can use to actually implement new techniques but not immediately implement the system but run them in parallel. So you have a method by which we can improve some of the functionality and then incorporate it in a spiral development approach. There’s been quite a shift in what we’re able to bring in the engineering development sense so that you’re not continually interrupting the operational system.”