Boeing welcomes Australian defence innovation initiative

The Director of Boeing Phantom Works International (PW-I), Dr Shane Arnott, has welcomed the Australian Government’s decision to launch a major defence innovation initiative to generate new technologies related to satisfying future capability development requirements of the Australian Defence Force.

The Australian Government launched last December a $1.6 billion (over 10 years) innovation program to be
managed by the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC), and looking to generate new future technologies of relevance to the military, as well as accelerate the uptake by Defence of current innovations that have progressed through to the engineering/manufacturing development stage.

Dr Arnott, who oversees PW-I’s global program – including its largest and longest-established facility in Brisbane (Australia) – said the company is “really pleased with the shift in Australian thinking from presenting itself as a capability buyer to a capability maker/innovator, in parallel with the decision to elevate Industry as a fundamental input to Australian military capability (FIC) within the ADF’s capability development model.”

Boeing, in turn, was not surprised by the conclusions of the 2016 Australian Defence White Paper, and the structure of its accompanying Defence Integrated Investment Plan, which laid out proposals for expenditure of up to $195 billion on new military capability acquisitions over the next decade or so.

Speaking at the Avalon Airshow on Tuesday Dr Arnott said, “Everyone in the West has got very similar or the same problems and issues, so there were really no surprises for Boeing in the new integrated investment plan. In fact, we found there was very strong alignment with several of the technology development strands we were already advancing via the Phantom Works.”

Current Boeing Defence, Space and Security technology initiatives include the TX trainer, reusable space launchers, advanced weapons, the MQ-25 unmanned tanker, future vertical lift platforms, satellites and unmanned undersea vehicles. These platform projects are being accompanied by research into mission systems solutions extending across integrated systems, computing/sensors, a common mission control centre and RF communications.

Dr Arnott said Boeing is especially looking at ensuring outputs of this work fit with the Royal Australian Air Force’s project Jericho, as well as more broadly investigating how existing Boeing platforms in-service with the Australian Defence Force – such as the E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C and ‘Vigilaire’ command and control system – can be updated and tasked to addressing future threats.

As a result, said Dr Arnott, “particular focus within Boeing is being given to the future Air Battle Management System (project AIR 6500) and options for future Tactical Air & Missile Defence (project Land 19/7). We also have an active program for leveraging technologies between the military and commercial areas, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles from Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary by Shell, for survey/monitoring its vast gas fields.

“Shell’s gas fields in Australia are spread roughly over the size of the UK, and previously, ground-based crews could only achieve well head inspections on 4-5 sites a day by traditional means. Now, with the assistance of Insitu’s unmanned aerial vehicles, Shell is achieving inspection rates of up to 150 facilities per day.”