The Woomera Test Range is set to commence a much-needed update in the second half of the decade, as the wide-ranging JP3024 Phase 1 gains traction.

Following on from First Pass in late 2011, a draft Operational Concept Document (OCD) and Function and Performance Specification (FPS) paper has recently been released on AusTender for industry comment and the resultant upgrade will support aerospace Test and Evaluation (T&E) and Research and Evaluation (R&E) for manned and unmanned aircraft, weapons and Electronic Warfare.

Defence plans to release a formal Request For Tender once it has received and digested industry feedback from the OCD and FPS. The upgrade is required as current systems in use on the Woomera Test Range are nearing the end of their useful lives and will be unable to meet the full scope of future trials of air vehicles and weapons systems. However the project is cost-constrained and Phase 1 has been developed in three increments of increasing capability.

JP3024 scope

For a project with an acquisition cost band (according to the DCP) of between $100 million and $300 million, JP3024 Phase 1 will remediate quite a number of existing systems, including Radar and Optical Systems (Tracking & Surveillance), Behavioural Systems (including imagery), Telemetry Systems, Range Communications, Range Control & Safety Systems (RCSS), a Mobile RCSS, Test and Training Enabling Architecture (TENA) compliance, or equivalent, Enhanced Fibre Optic Network, Meteorological and trials room systems and planning tools.

Simulation will also play an important part with the requirement for external interface connectivity to Live, Virtual & Constructive functionality and the new architecture will also have an external interface to Tactical Data Links (Link 16 and data received via Variable Message Format)

“JP3024 Phase 1 primary objective is remediation of the existing system providing assurance that future tasking can be safely and reliably completed,” commented Air Commodore Steve Roberton, Director General Aerospace Development. “As a secondary objective, within budgetary limitations, JP3024 Phase 1 will seek to provide enhanced capability supporting network enabled operations and training.”

The Government approved milestones in the current DCP call for a Year of Decision between FY2013-14 and 2014-15, Initial Materiel Release between FY2015-16 and FY2017-18, with Initial Operating Capability also between FY2015-16 and FY2017-18.

Because of the cost constraints, the project has been prioritised into three increasing levels of capability:

Level 1 will remediate the existing Woomera Test Range capability for single operations, supporting a minimum rate of effort, which is 20 weeks of instrumented activity during 26 weeks of non-instrumented activity. In other words, the capability of conducting a single instrumented test within a single activation period with concurrent non-instrumented trials.

Level 2 will deliver an Extended Operations Capability, which will enable and support extended operations in Test Area 2, which is to the west of the Stuart Highway, to support the minimum Rate of Effort as described above.

Level 3 will support Complex Operations, which are defined as concurrent test activities in Test Areas 1 (the existing WTR) and 2 to support the minimum RoE, which is 24 weeks of instrumented activity during a 40 week non-instrumented activity period.

By way of comparison, the current Woomera Test Range provides 13 weeks of instrumented range services and 48 weeks of non-instrumented services.

The preferred solution will be to acquire either a COTS or MOTS system ‘to the maximum extent possible’ through an open tender process and the DCP notes that any equipment sourced from overseas OEMs will require local partners to manage installation and integration of the equipment at the test site. It says Australian industry opportunities will therefore be available in supply, installation and integration of the capability delivered.

Through Life Support will use existing Defence corporate logistics tool and processes as much as it possibly can, including the requirement that engineering maintenance and logistics support contracts are signed at the same time as the acquisition contract.

“No contracts have been signed or preferred bidders announced as formal Industry solicitation has not yet occurred,” AIRCDRE Roberton said. “JP3024 Ph1 is not an on-going project. The IOC and FOC milestones will be defined by Defence and Government once the materiel solution is known.”

Industry view

BAE Systems Australia and QinetiQ are two of many companies involved with the Woomera Test Range over its extensive history, and both have expressed an interest in JP3024. Both expect a hard fought competition, involving many of the big names in Defence industry and there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to plan possible teaming arrangements once the RFT is eventually released.

Industry sources say an RFT is expected either sometime late this year, or possibly in the first quarter of 2014, with the project to get underway in mid-2015 at the earliest, with a completion around 2020.

Kim Scott, director Business Development Land & Integrated Systems for BAE Systems Australia points to the company’s long association with Woomera, stretching back to the missile trials performed by what was then the Bristol Aeroplane Company began trials of the first generation Bloodhound air defence missile system 60 years ago.

“Since that time we’ve had various relationships on the Woomera Range, both with tracking radar systems that are currently still in service up there, which come out of our US business, but we have also previously held the commercial support contract for Woomera,” Scott said to ADM. “We’ve certainly got a proud history of involvement in the programs up there and we would like to continue to do that. In terms of JP3024, there’s been a number of RFIs so far and we’ve responded to each of them. We are currently reviewing the OCD and FPS against the solution we think we want to provide and we will go back to Defence with some commentary related to that at the end of July.”

Scott says that BAE Systems Australia intends to bid for JP3024 as a prime contractor, leveraging off its North American business in Fort Walton Beach Florida, who provided the MPS-36 radar currently installed on the Woomera Test Range and supplied a number of instrumentation radars and electro-optical tracking systems to test ranges throughout the world. He also said the company would choose equipment on a ‘best of breed’ principle.

“Our desire is to run as prime, we are fortunate that we have capability that sits across all the areas required. We will draw a lot of capability out of our US business and we’ll draw upon other partners where we need to. The way we see it operating is that we will be the overall prime and utilise the project management, engineering management and system integration expertise that we have from a number of programs here,” he detailed.

“We will use the US for technical support and a lot of the engineering. We estimate that around 60 per cent of the program is going to be off-the shelf procurement that will go off-shore to the OEMS, of which we are one. Anything we don’t have in our family of products we will pick up from third party subcontractors. There are a couple of niche areas that we’ve identified that will probably have to come from some of those other players and we’ve already identified who they are and we’re already in relationships and discussion with them.”

Work so far

QinetiQ delivered an upgrade to the Range Control & Safety System (RCSS) currently in use at Woomera between 2009 and 2012, in conjunction with subcontractors such as Communications-Electronics Solutions of Port Stephens in NSW.

The RCSS system is the same as that used by QinetiQ at the Aberporth range in the UK, which is the principal test range and has a life of type which stretches out to around 2029. The company also operates a range installation in the Hebrides, which it s currently upgrading to a higher level of specification to that at Aberporth.

“The RCSS work was delivered in Australia, but it was delivered with Australian and UK support,” explained Paul Donald, general manager for Engineering Services at QinetiQ. “The key is that it is an OTS system which has had very little modification to the baseline system. It’s the same system that’s in use in Europe and the UK, so it’s not an orphan system. It is open architecture and therefore sensor-agnostic, we have sensors provided by Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. All sorts of sensor interfaces are fed through the RCSS.”

Cameron Menzies, head of QinetiQ Sales and Business Development, says that the challenge particular to Woomera is the number of stakeholders who operate and use the system, predicting that many of the JP3024 requirements will have to meet the needs of a variety of stakeholders in the future, including Australia’s international partners.

“We are very interested in the opportunity that’s presented by JP3024, but we haven’t bedded down our solution or how we are going to approach the opportunity,” he said.

QinetiQ is currently sending some of its Australian staff to the UK to increase their skill sets and reinforce its in-country ranges capability. Doing this Menzies says, will enable them to present the best technical offering to the Commonwealth and minimise the risk to future delivery.

Menzies also says that the experience gained with the RCSS upgrade at Woomera provided QinetiQ with an in-depth understanding of the parts of the system which work and those which don’t. “The implementation of the RCSS was not an easy project, based on the age of the sensors and the challenging level of readiness,” he recalled. “The sensors are 1950s or 1960s vintage.”

ADM undertands that one company cannot provide the complete solution to JP3024 by itself.

“There are very few people who will be able to be truly sensor-agnostic,” Donals said. “Our independence allows us to make a better teaming decision should we decide to do that, because we can look across the market and take the best, rather than what our parent company tells us to do.”

Beyond the Woomera remediation project, both BAE Systems Australia and QinetiQ see future opportunities in the upgrade of training ranges, such as Delamere and Bradshaw in the Northern Territory. However given the tight budget for JP3024 it is felt that such opportunities may not be entering the DCP anytime soon.

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