The Australian Government has announced it will acquire an ownership stake in Canberra-based advanced radar manufacturer CEA Technologies as it seeks to lock down sovereign Australian military technologies.
The government said the $500 million deal with CEA will secure the leading-edge capability and will ultimately become part of a larger government business enterprise.
“Today’s landmark agreement secures the longevity of this Australian company and guarantees supply of critical radar systems for the ADF, now and into the future,” Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said in the release.
“The approach the Commonwealth has taken, in partnership with existing shareholders, will ensure CEA is on the path to grow and develop over the long term, in order to meet the ongoing needs of Australia and its international partners.”
The government says the investment will allow CEA to continue to grow and develop its suite of products, will preserve its culture of innovation to pursue commercial opportunities, and provide CEA’s 600 staff and its investors with clarity about the company’s future.
CEA is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of advanced electronic scanned array and phased array radars, and its products have been heavily adopted by the Australian Defence Force.
Based in Fyshwick, CEA was established in 1983 by former Royal Australian Navy officers Ian Croser and David Gaul to design and develop electronic systems for the Navy. CEA designs, manufactures and provides in-country support for its arrays using Australian engineers and more than 75 per cent Australian industry content.
Projects the company has been heavily involved in include the Project SEA 1448 Phase 2 Anti-Ship Missile Defence and Phase 4B Air Search Radar upgrades for the RAN’s eight ANZAC class frigates, and the Australian Army’s Project LAND 19 Phase 7B Enhanced NASAMS short-range ground-based air defence program.
The Royal Australian Air Force has also adopted CEA’s sensors for its AIR 3024 Phase 1 Woomera Range Radar upgrade, the AIR 5439 Phase 6 Advanced Growler program, and the AIR 6500 Phase 1 Tranche 1 Advanced Battlefield Management System.
Working with former minority shareholder Northrop Grumman Australia, CEA has also played a key role in maintaining and upgrading the multi-role electronic scanned array radars on the RAAF’s fleet of Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft.
The Commonwealth’s initial holding in CEA will be a non-controlling interest from July this year, and will transition to a controlling share by the end of 2024. The release stressed that CEA would continue to operate as an “independent for-profit company at arms-length from government”.
Minister for Finance Senator Katy Gallagher said, “The Commonwealth’s staged investment in CEA, a longstanding and valued partner, strikes an appropriate balance between maintaining the capabilities and operational independence of CEA as a standalone company, and keeping Australians safe while achieving value for the taxpayer.”
Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy added, “CEA is an Australian manufacturing powerhouse, with world-leading know-how and decades of industry experience that has led to the design and development of cutting-edge radar systems.
“The phased array radar capabilities within CEA are a critical sovereign capability, and today’s agreement protects the incredible capability of the CEA workforce and their unmatched ability in the field of radar technologies.”
In a brief company statement, CEA Chairman Peter Robson welcomed the Commonwealth as a significant shareholder and thanked the departing long-term minority shareholders for their support.
“The enduring support provided by all shareholders and departing board members, leave the company in a very good financial and operational state, well positioned for future strategic growth, able to meet technology challenges and to deliver advanced capability systems to the Australian Defence Force and its allies,” he said.