• QinetiQ Chief Executive Gary Stewart. 

Credit: QinetiQ
    QinetiQ Chief Executive Gary Stewart. Credit: QinetiQ

Every time a submarine departs the UK on patrol, it transits through an instrumented test range where its noise signatures are assessed under different operating conditions, with a full report delivered to the captain.

As Australia begins to operate nuclear-powered submarines early next decade, it will need just such a capability off the WA coast.

“The Commonwealth ranges and facilities are absolutely suitable for the capabilities and platforms they are operating today,” Gary Stewart, chief executive officer of QinetiQ told ADM.

“[But] they are unsuitable - without significant investment - to be relevant for nuclear submarines, integrated air and missile defence (IAMD), hypersonics and other next generation weapons and lethality.”

QinetiQ is a UK-listed multinational defence and security company formed in 2001 from the commercialisation of the UK Defence and Research Agency.

It opened in Australia in 2008, acquiring three businesses specialising in aircraft structural integrity and defence advisory. Unlike other prime sector offices, QinetiQ Australia has international responsibility for portfolios in Canada, Germany and also in the UK.

QinetiQ is especially strong in test and evaluation (T&E), a major part of their Australian business which also includes threat representation, delivered through acquisition of Air Affairs whose aircraft and drones simulate aircraft and missiles for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and others.

The ADF does plenty of in-house T&E but Stewart says that effort is fragmented and stove piped. In that respect, Australia isn’t too different to the US which does its test and evaluation, certification and systems assurance (TECSA) in-house.

“The UK is the only one of the three nations which has commercialised its TECSA capabilities and now has an industrial strategic partner with the reach and experience,” he said.

“In Australia we are already doing significant T&E with Defence on that fragmented basis.”

“There is somewhere in the order of 140 companies which provide individually varying degrees of test and evaluation services or products to Defence and they are contracted via both project offices independently as part of domain T&E organisation.”

At the fundamental level, T&E is about ensuring the ADF gets what it pays for.

“A principal purpose of T&E is firstly to understand and verify that what you have contracted for is actually delivered. That testing will invariably find that there are shortfalls … to what has been contracted,” Stewart said.

“The next step of T&E is the ‘so what’.”

So, some may ask whether the level of performance is good enough, without embarking on costly and time-consuming pursuit of the final few per cent.

Gary Stewart argues that both performance and efficiencies are the ultimate prize.

QinetiQ is already participating in the SSN-AUKUS project. The company is embedded within the UK Submarine Delivery Agency, equivalent of the Australian Submarine Agency, providing technical expertise and assurance.

“We are also doing the upfront design work for Defence, but also alongside the likes of BAE and Rolls Royce, doing assurance and design of fundamental components of the nuclear-powered submarines,” he said.

“We operate the (UK) ranges and test facilities that actually model and evaluate the all-up nuclear-powered submarine which is important to understand what are operating limits speed, turn radius, how it moves on water and below water and then also providing operational information to a boat commander.”

QinetiQ sees a big future in Australia for enterprise level T&E, especially as Australia acquires and operates nuclear powered subs.

“Understanding what is required for a T&E enterprise for Australia that is going to be operating both US and UK origin designs, that’s where relevant experience matters,” he said.

Doing T&E better is not a new idea.

Defence’s sovereign industrial priorities says T&E plays a critical role across all elements of the capability life cycle.

“Its role is to assure that capabilities are safe and operationally viable through the provision of objective evidence to quantify the risk of new technologies, concepts or capabilities on warfighting operations,” it says.

Stewart said there’s a role for both low-cost and expensive platforms in contemporary operations, building the T&E enterprise and infrastructure to enable evaluation of traditional complex exquisite systems and also low cost at scale systems and how they support each other.

Better T&E can also save money.

Stewart said for five years QinetiQ has run a pilot program with the UK Defence Equipment and Support Agency, equivalent of CASG, using digital procurement and digital engineering tools and methods.

“We have delivered over GBP 117 million in savings over five years to the UK Ministry of Defence on defence projects, ensuring our ability to deliver capability faster,” he said.

comments powered by Disqus