The Commonwealth will invest $40 million to bridge a looming mini-valley of death as the SEA 4000 Hobart class air warfare destroyer programs comes to an end, and skills in the integration of its Aegis combat system potentially dissipate.
Under this deal, Defence has selected Raytheon Australia to act as its Australian Aegis Systems Integration Agent for the next six years. That will give Raytheon a watching brief on integration of the Aegis combat system on the new SEA 5000 Hunter class frigates, to be constructed by BAE Systems Australia in Adelaide.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said this was about ensuring capability gained by Raytheon Australia in integrating the Aegis combat system on the Navy’s three Hobart class DDGs was not lost.
He said it was also important for the Department of Defence to have its own independent agency to ensure our interests were being protected and that we are getting exactly what we need for the best possible integration of the Aegis system that we can get.
“From a national security point of view it is very important to maintain the sovereign capabilities that we have now and build on them. Raytheon has invested themselves very significantly here in south Australian in building that capability,” he said.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for integration of Aegis on the Hunter vessels, with Saab Australia integrating non-Aegis elements.
“It was very much the view of Defence that with such a huge project – and the combat system integration is obviously a vital part of it – that we needed to have our own independent analysis to make sure the project was being conducted properly,” Minister Pyne said.
Raytheon Australia managing director Michael Ward said this meant the capability Raytheon has established on the AWD program would be applied to the development and enhancement of future Navy combat system capabilities.
Mr Ward said expertise generated through Raytheon’s decade of Aegis integration will assist Defence in the extraordinarily complex task of integrating the Aegis combat systems of Australia’s current and future service combatants.
“Through our AWD experience, we have gained the unique capabilities necessary to integrate, evolve and continuously develop the Aegis combat system in Australia, working alongside the Commonwealth and our industry partners including Lockheed Martin,” he said.
“Through this decision Christopher Pyne is creating a bridge over the valley of death for a significant number of AWD combat system professionals. These are new, real jobs in Adelaide that will be sustained for years to come.”
The AWD program proved troublesome, with delays and cost overruns in construction of the three vessels. But Raytheon’s integration of the combat system proceeded smoothly, and the Aegis system and SPY-1D radar worked from the outset.
That project is now approaching an end with the last ship, to be named HMAS Sydney, to be delivered to the Navy early next year.
Despite Raytheon missing out on upcoming major projects to integrate combat systems on Future Submarines and the Hunter class frigates, another project is looming for which Raytheon would be a serious contender – upgrading of the Aegis combat system on the DDGs to the latest Baseline 9 configuration, for which a decision is expected soon.
Although the DDGs are only just entering Australian service, their Aegis combat system isn’t the latest technology.
Defence has long appreciated the need for an upgrade which will be conducted through project SEA 4000 Phase 6. Currently the Hobart class uses the Baseline 7.1 Refresh 2 which was ordered back at the start of the AWD program in 2005.
But with the SPY-1D(V) radar and AN/SPQ-9B horizon search radar, it is actually closer to the US baseline 8, while the latest US Arleigh Burke class DDGs carry Aegis Baseline 9 which includes an integrated anti-ballistic missile capability.
The Defence Integrated Investment Program says that will be run over the period 2017-28 at a cost of $4-5 billion.