BAE Systems aims to partner with SMEs as it targets LAND 400

A LAND 400 Project Phase 2, BAE Systems Patria AMV35 during a live-fire demonstration at Mount Bundey Training Area on the 15th of May, 2017.
The AMV35 at the Mount Bundey Training Area. (Defence)

Global defence, aerospace and security company BAE Systems has outlined an international perspective on partnering so as to best leverage the capabilities of SMEs in the context of its pursuit of LAND 400 and other opportunities.

“To operate globally, it means you have to partner locally,” said Erwin Bieber, president of the Platforms & Services sector of BAE Systems Inc, speaking yesterday at an event in Melbourne.

Bieber highlighted the work of Melbourne company APV, which designs, manufactures and tests safety critical automotive components.

BAE Systems sources its advanced combat vehicle occupant restraint system from APV, which it intends to use in the Amphibious Combat Vehicle for the US Marine Corps if it prevails in that competition.

“We as a prime have a responsibility to make sure we set up relationships that are going to be effective,” said Bieber. “It is about partnering, instead of sheer subcontracting; it is about shared objectives; it is about transparency in the way we operate in the supply chain.”

The event, which was arranged in association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia and hosted by KPMG, followed the announcement by BAE Systems Australia of agreements with Victorian SMEs relating to its bid for LAND 400, including APV.

“Really, that was the tip of the iceberg in terms of our [Australian Industry Capability] announcements and the work that we intend to do here in Australia,” said Brian Gathright, who leads the company’s LAND 400 bid.

“We continue to solicit proposals; we continue to evaluate proposals. There will be additional announcements about key suppliers that have outstanding capability offered at competitive prices that we want to have as part of our solution.”

Gathright emphasised the importance of driving down cost.

“Make no mistake, cost is important,” he said. “AIC is not a handout; it is about identifying and maturing capability such that there is a sustainable base.

“Because frankly, if it is a handout, when policy changes or when dollars move in a different direction, the opportunity goes a different direction.”

Encouragingly for industry, Gathright acknowledged the competitiveness of Australian companies.

“The most interesting thing for me, my observation in 18 months in Australia, is how cost competitive Australia actually is,” he said.

“Quite honestly, I will be blunt and say that [Australia is] less expensive in cases; there are things that we buy from Europe. So there is an opportunity for us to reduce our price on things like LAND 400 by using national suppliers.”