ADM understands that Elbit Systems Australia has been given notice earlier this month to cease use of the existing deployed BMS version with Army, effective from mid next month. The news was given to the company with no explanation as to the reasoning behind the decision, with Defence confirming that they have no interim solution to replace the capability.
The program also signed a multimillion dollar follow-on sustainment contract earlier this month which would see elements of the capability upgraded and expanded.
At this point, Defence has spent billions on the program over the past decade, with the last contract extension in 2017 signed for $1.4 billion alone.
ADM understands that Elbit Systems Australia program employs approximately 190 highly skilled local people across the nation to support this program for Army. There is also a significant local SME workforce that supports the program.
Neither Defence or Elbit Systems Australia would comment about the program or its consequences as this article went to press.
The BMS forms the digital backbone of Army operations. Delivered under Land 200 nomenclature, it is the combination of the following projects/phases:
- Land 75 Phase 3.2 & Phase 3.3. Battlefield Command Support System (BCSS)
- Land 75 Phase 3.4. Battle Management System – Mounted (BMS-M)
- Land 125 Phase 3. Battle Management System – Dismounted (BMS-D)
The BMS is the central component of the Battle Group and Below Command, Control and Communications System (BGC3) that is being jointly delivered by the Land 75 Phase 3.4, Land 125 Phase 3A, and JP 2072 Phase 1 projects. It incorporates a mobile, data capable communications system, and be able to exchange combat information with BCSS and other Land BMS.
Defence applied to Government to delay First Pass approval for Land 200 Phase 3 Battlefield Command System by 12 months to at least February 2022 due to overall movement in committee approval processes and COVID-19 in October last year.
“The 2015 sole-source procurement process for the Army’s BMS was ultimately effective, but the procurement was delayed pending resolution of affordability issues affecting Land 200 Tranche 2 as a whole. Defence addressed affordability issues by adopting a ‘design to price’ strategy, significantly reducing project scope and assuming additional risk and cost by taking on the role of Prime Systems Integrator. Defence has assessed that it can achieve value-for-money outcomes following these adjustments,” the report said.
ADM Comment: The more research into this decision undertaken, the stranger it gets. No notice. No reason given. No viable replacement. Relatively large extension contract signed less than a fortnight before. No senior Defence figure was in the loop or would admit to being in the loop. Both ministers have been thrown in the deep end with furious questions being asked all round.
For a government that has been open in its drive to support intellectual property (IP) transfer from global primes and the practical application of Australian Industry Capability (AIC), the decision is simply baffling.
While the program has seen issues over the years (show me a perfect program?) the suddenness of the decision is truly startling.
And neither party would speak to ADM about the issue in any form. Stay tuned as more information comes to light.