General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (GDAIS), developer of the AN/BYG-1 tactical control system (TCS), a component of the Collins combat system, touts the AN/BYG-1 modernisation program as delivering open system flexibility for rapid technology insertion.

GDAIS says it develops the TCS in a collaborative environment with over 50 per cent of the development effort performed by small businesses, leveraging the best solutions that industry, government and academia can offer.

Potential system enhancements and new fleet capabilities are evaluated for inclusion in the system on a biennial basis as part of the Navy’s Advanced Processing Builds (APB) software development and fielding process.

Hardware upgrades (Technology Insertions or TI’s) are developed on a biennial basis to provide improved capability and to address COTS obsolescence.

Such upgrades lie under the control of the US Navy’s PEO Submarines, Rear Admiral David Johnson, following recommendations from his Submarine Tactical Requirements Group which receives requests from the Royal Australian Navy for combat system improvements through the Capability Requirements Group.

The AN/BYG-1 TCS - Each of these systems incorporates a variety of APB software algorithms that are developed by a host of industry, government and academia sources.

But despite this country's misguided investment in the AN/BYG-1 TCS, which integrates the tactical control, weapons control, and tactical network subsystems, due mainly to political muscle and the USN’s Submarine Cooperation Statement of Principles, Australian industry appears to have achieved little benefit from the APB program despite the system’s shortcomings from an Australian operational viewpoint.

USN performance reports have repeatedly highlighted critical capability gaps not being addressed by the APB program.

The shortfalls are significant, particularly in Australian operation areas.

Key issues include coping with high contact densities (i.e. keep track of many contacts simultaneously) and the ability to deal with ‘close, high bearing rate contacts’ (i.e. track weapons).

The Chief of Navy has made light of these reports in previous Senate Estimates, saying “we are happy with the system”, experienced submariners have a rather different view.

Senate Estimates last week suggests that enthusiasm does not appear to be a highpoint in the RAN’s interest in Australian industry participation in the APB program:

Senator David Fawcett: Rear Admiral Sammut, I am not sure if you heard that question.

Rear Adm. Sammut: No, I am sorry. I did not hear the question.

Senator Fawcett:
I am talking about the APB program, the joint program between us and the US on the combat system. I asked how often the capability requirements group met and how often we have put requirements through. The answer that came back said that it has met twice and that one set of requirements was conveyed to the USN in 2013-14. I was wondering what the outcome of that was and whether any of our requirements have been adopted in the upgrade program.

Rear Adm. Sammut: I am not aware that they have been formally adopted at this particular point in the process of formalising requirements between the US and Australia. I am aware that there is a degree of commonality in those requirements between the US submarine tactical requirements group, which is the equivalent of our submarine capability requirements group. Those requirements have been communicated to the US. They have gone to the principal executive officer of submarines in the US, who oversees the conduct of that program, as well as the USN.

Senator Fawcett: The other question was about the opportunities for Australian industry to become involved. We have heard for a number of estimates periods now that Defence is looking at a project to provide opportunities. At estimates in June you took a question on notice on that and the answer came back saying that there is a program and that they put out requests for tenders in April 2014, that tenders were currently being evaluated and that contracts were expected to be in place by the end of July this year. I was just wondering if you could give us an update. Are there any contracts in place? Who are they with? What is the scope of work that has been awarded to Australian industry?

David Gould: Two companies are on contract following those two particular tenders. As regards the value, I will have to come back to you on notice. They are quite small value contracts; I will say that. They are under contract now.

Senator Fawcett: Can you say who the companies are?

David Gould: I can. They are Thales and Cirrus (Author’s note: presumably Cirrus RTPS)

Senator Fawcett: What is the scope of work?

David Gould: The scope of work is to do with the way in which data is displayed in the AN/BYG-1 consoles.

ADM comment: One would hope that much more effort is made to encourage hardware and software upgrade proposals from local companies and institutions to ensure that the AN/BYG-1 TCS fully meets RAN submarine operational requirements especially in shallow water and other aspects of the littoral environment in this country’s Rules Of Engagement.

Companies and organisations more than qualified to handle aspects of the APB program have to include Saab, Thales, Acacia Research, Cirrus RTPS, Lockheed Martin Australia, DSTO, University of Adelaide, and no doubt many others.

Acacia’s Ted Huber says there are many areas of submarine capability under review and continuing development.

Some areas worthy of particular attention are target motion analysis (TMA) automation, particularly in high contact density environments, accommodating environmental effects, multi-sensor data fusion, sensor performance, tactical support tools, temporary, mission specific sensors and processors.

“The wish list is very long. Australian industry can become much more involved in the joint development, particularly addressing local requirements. Once verified in the Australian environment, these applications may be shared and configured as part of a baseline under the MOU with the USN.

“In relatively benign situations, where competing CS capability differences are only marginal, this may well be tolerable.

However, in the face of an unexpected technology leap or a new asymmetric threat from a newcomer, the ability to respond, both by way of rapid science and technology (S&T) development and deployment will becomes critical. Given the sluggish pace of recent CS development and freely available access to relevant S&T publications, a shock awakening caused by some disruptive new technology or strategic development, requiring a rapid and focused response, is not an unlikely scenario.

“At present, the capability to rapidly respond to a surprising, local stress within a reasonable time and budget is highly questionable.”

Selection of the USN combat system for the Collins (over the ISUS90-55 preferred by the DMO) was an appalling decision that cost the RAN submarine capability dearly, including hundreds of millions in cost overruns and a slow rollout rate.

Since we are stuck with the AN/BYG-1 TCS, at least until the Collins Class submarines are finally decommissioned, let us do as Huber suggests, and effect our own modernisation of the system.

This article was oroginally posted in Defence Week Premium edition 324.

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