ADM’s signature event, Congress, took place in Canberra on Wednesday, attracting 450 delegates and speakers to the Playhouse Theatre - including service chiefs from Army and RAN.
The day opened with a video message from Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, before Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr took to the stage to summarise key moments from the year behind and give his thoughts on recent ADF operations, including Bushfire Assist.
“Project Greyfin was a significant moment last year,” LTGEN Burr said. “The model provided an acquisition sustainment methodology that will make us more agile.
“The self-propelled howitzers decision – known as protected mobile fires – will allow us to keep up with the protected mobility being delivered through Land 400 and Land 121.”
LTGEN Burr also touched on the role of unmanned technologies in the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter replacement, for which Airbus, Boeing and Bell are competing.
“We’re a long way from having an unmanned attack helicopter,” LTGEN Burr said. “The ARH replacement will be a manned system supplemented by unmanned systems.
“The environment in which ARH operate is much more cluttered and an unmanned helicopter is decades away, I would think.”
Interestingly, LTGEN Burr also weighed in to recent debates on whether the ADF should have a dedicated firefighting capability.
“It is not Defence’s primary mission,” LTGEN Burr said. “At this time we’re not looking at doing firefighting. We’ve been able to value-add by helping behind the scene, but there is no focus on firefighting.
“Our principal job is to prepare for war. Our resources are tied up in doing that. A lot of people commentate on what could be, but that’s where we sit.”
LTGEN Burr was followed by Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, who discussed the scale of Operation Bushfire Assist from a maritime perspective.
“We mobilised HMAS Choules within 16 hours. We evacuated over 1,100 people and their animals,” VADM Noonan said. “We even had seven industry employees on board HMAS Adelaide still working on the gas turbine as it sailed.”
VADM Noonan also noted the improvements RAN has made since 2011, when it was unable to deploy a single amphibious ship in response to Cyclone Yasi.
“Industry was instrumental in getting our ships ready at short notice and supporting those ships on operations. Navy’s relationship with industry has come a long way,” VADM Noonan said.
He then took the opportunity to respond to recent headlines surrounding the Future Submarine program, and to debates around mandating AIC levels.
“Despite what you might read in the paper, we are on track. Our transition plan is in great shape,” VADM Noonan said. “Understanding that this is challenging and comes with risk, we will continue to work together to deliver it.
“I’m not in a position to mandate levels of AIC. I don’t think it’s helpful to mandate a specified percentage, but the commitment of striving to having the greatest possible Australian industry content is what we should be doing.”
Other highlights from the day included the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for East Asia Heino Klink, who was asked for his thoughts on ‘military policy by Twitter’.
“What did you think I would answer?” Klink laughed. “We live in a democracy, warts and all. I wouldn’t trade our system or your system with any other in the world.”
Rheinmetall Australia chief Gary Stewart highlighted the importance of the Australian market to the German arms manufacturer.
“We are making our largest infrastructure investment in our history in Australia. Australia is the only extended workbench outside Germany contributing to the qualification and certification of military vehicles,” Stewart said.
Other speakers included Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins on the journey the company has gone through on new weapons, ASPI’s budget guru Marcus Hellyer, The Whiskey Project co-founder Darren Schuback, Head of Information Warfare MAJGEN Marcus Thompson and Naval Shipbuilding Institute Chief Executive Ian Irving on skilling and workforce challenges, and more.
Further coverage from ADM Congress 2020 will be available in the March edition of ADM.
A photo gallery is available above. Those wishing the access the live webstream from the day can contact email@example.com for more details.