19 May 2023

Government appoints head of Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise

| Andrew McLaughlin
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An HIMARS precision strike missile system on display at March’s Avalon Airshow. Photo: ADF.

The Federal Government has announced the appointment of a senior officer to head up its Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) Enterprise.

GWEO seeks to manufacture whole or elements of advanced guided weapons in Australia.

In a 5 May release, the government said that in line with the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) it released last month, Royal Australian Air Force officer Air Vice-Marshal Leon Phillips OAM would head up the GWEO effective immediately. He will report directly to the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of the Australian Defence Force (CDF).

The release stated one of the key recommendations of the DSR was a $2.5 billion program to accelerate and expand Australia’s long-range weapons systems including land and maritime-launched anti-ship and land strike missile systems. It stated this would be complemented by an accelerated $1.6 billion program to develop the capability to manufacture such systems in Australia.

READ ALSO Government shifts focus to long-range missiles (and it wants them built in Australia)

“Congratulations to Air Vice-Marshal Phillips on his appointment to this important role, which will oversee the delivery of the ADF’s guided weapons and explosive ordnance requirements,” Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy said in the release.

“Air Vice-Marshal Phillips has over 36 years of experience in the Royal Australian Air Force predominantly delivering highly complex aerospace projects and managing their in-service support. He has a strong track record of establishing effective partnerships with defence industry.

“I look forward to working with Air Vice-Marshal Phillips and Australia’s defence industry on delivering critical capabilities we need for our national security.”


Concept art shows the MASS system firing decays to intercept incoming anti-ship missile. Image: Rheinmetall.

On the same day AVM Phillips’ appointment was announced, the government took its first tentative steps to build this sovereign capability when it said it would buy a new Australian-built system designed to protect Royal Australian Navy ships from anti-ship missiles.

The Multi-Ammunition Soft-Kill System (MASS) is manufactured by German company Rheinmetall. The system will be licence-built in Australia by the company’s local subsidiary at Ipswich in Queensland to equip the Navy’s eight ANZAC class frigates and three Hobart class destroyers.

MASS is a decoy system which employs electromagnetic effects and various decoy systems designed to defeat guided anti-ship weapons. The $180 million five-year deal will employ 45 people to build the systems from later this year.

“This investment will not only keep our sailors safe, but also lead to a smarter, stealthier Navy, able to protect Australia’s interests in our current strategic environment,” Minister Conroy said in a separate release.

READ ALSO ADF to pay bonuses and improve defence housing in a bid to boost personnel retention rates

In a doorstop at Rheinmetall Defence Australia’s Ipswich facility, managing director Nathan Poyner said: “I think you can see this as an example of bringing advanced technology into Australia and for the Australian Defence Force, where we can have our local workers now building, assembling and delivering equipment to protect our Commonwealth soldiers.

“We’ll start the works on the site here within the next weeks. Then we’ll get the first equipment in. And then we’ll be starting to see energising about supply chain in the early part of next year.”

In a separate company statement, Mr Poyner said: “The contract, the first naval contract awarded to Rheinmetall Defence Australia represents a significant milestone as the company grows its local industrial footprint with further advanced assembly and training system capabilities in Australia.”

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