Canberra-based Lockheed Martin Australia unveiled its proposed solution for the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) future Project AIR 6500 Phase 1 Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS) during a specialist media brief in Canberra.
The Phase 1 effort is the first of an ambitious multi-phased endeavour to build a nationwide Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) network, a layered system of various sensors and defensive missile systems designed to protect Australian airspace against possible air and missile attack.
One of the key sensors of Phase 1 as mandated by the Commonwealth will be four new air defence radar arrays designed and built by Canberra’s CEA Technologies. Future project phases will include the acquisition of a medium-range ground-based air defence system, and an advanced system capable of defending against ballistic and hypersonic missile attack.
In August 2021, Lockheed Martin Australia was shortlisted – along with Northrop Grumman Australia – for a competitive evaluation process to become a strategic partner of the Commonwealth in developing an advanced IAMD, and to this end it has pulled together a team of Australian defence businesses for its solution. A decision on the winning solution was scheduled to have been announced late last year, but was deferred until after the release of the Government’s response to the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) in the coming months.
“Lockheed Martin carefully hand-selected our partners, using our extensive experience in delivering battle-proven IAMD systems, to not only design a solution trusted to defend Australia and its national interests, but to choose those with the skills to contribute to it,” Lockheed Martin Australia’s International Business Development Director of Rotary and Missions Systems, Kendell Kuczma, said in a 20 February release.
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So far, Lockheed Martin Australia has awarded contracts to more than 10 Australian companies as part of its JABMS development, including QinetiQ Australia, Leidos Australia, Consunet, Consilium, C4I, Silentium, Penten, Lucid Consulting Engineering, and Daronmont. These companies offer a wide variety of capabilities, including cyber resilience and defence, sensors, artificial intelligence, software development, secure communications, network engineering, project management, and test and evaluation.
“By leveraging Australian companies with a strong understanding of defence, we will create a system that connects Defence’s modern systems and display it to commanders who can make decisions with improved clarity and situational awareness,” Ms Kuczma added.
“We understand the gravity of the task these systems bear, and to those charged with operating them to protect our nation’s interests. If ever there was a capability that you co-invest in and commit early to delivering a flexible architecture that can accommodate technological advances – it is IAMD.”
The company has presented a unique open-architecture web-based solution that has resilience against battle damage or disruption, has fixed and mobile elements, is able to fuse data from multiple disparate systems in space, in the air, on land, or at sea, and can integrate new radars or other sensors or weapons with the simple addition of an app.
The solution is Australian-designed and uses extensive Australian intellectual property (IP) to meet the RAAF’s demanding operational requirements, but is also flexible enough that capabilities operated by allied nations can easily be integrated into the network for exercises or operations when needed.
So far, Lockheed Martin Australia has invested more than $100 million in the development of its system, and has committed a further $74m to develop what it calls an ”IAMD Ecosystem”, which will facilitate ongoing collaborative efforts with academia, industry, Defence and allies to further develop its IAMD capabilities. It says it will create 400 direct and 1000 indirect jobs through the life of the capability.
The company believes its JABMS solution has the potential to be a world-leading capability that will bring clarity and cohesion to what has previously been a complex problem. To this end, it foresees the potential to sell its solution or elements of it into a global market it estimates is valued at $83 billion.
“Our focus on Australian industry, and how they contribute to our proposed solution, has the potential to provide a pipeline into the global IAMD enterprise,” Lockheed Martin Australia New Zealand chief executive Warren McDonald said.