Elbit Systems Australia says it is in negotiations with the Commonwealth and remains confident issues around the Army’s LAND 200 Battle Management System (BMS) can be resolved.
Managing director Paul McLachlan said Elbit was “a little bit surprised” by some of the testimony at Senate Estimates Committee hearing in Canberra on Wednesday when defence officials were grilled as to why Army had directed to cease use of the Elbit developed BMS.
“We will be seeking to engage with some of the members of the committee to make sure we put our side of the story,” he told journalists at the LAND FORCES 2021 in Brisbane.
Significantly, he says Elbit has yet to be informed as to the Commonwealth’s exact concerns about the BMS, derived from the Israeli Army’s BMS and developed in Australia over the last 10 years at a cost around $1 billion.
He said he characterised claims that this was deliberate espionage as hysterical. “There are certainly some concerns and there was some discussion about that at Senate Estimates. Once again we will be engaging with members of the committee to make sure we put our side of the story,” he said.
Significantly, the committee hearing was told no back door into the BMS software had been discovered, and it has been claimed that the BMS allows Israeli access, maybe into sensitive US systems. “Quite clearly we do not do that and there is not one,” McLachlan said.
He said this matter had been characterised by miscommunication which it was trying to resolve. “We are engaged with some positive discussions now with senior leaders of defence,” he said. “More than anything the company is fundamentally committed to fixing any problem there is and being able to deliver what remains of the contract,” he said.
McLachlan said Australia should “absolutely not” be worried about ADF use of Israeli systems. “There is some wonderful technology,” he said. “It is disruptive and if we can get it into the hands of Australian soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, that is a really important thing. I am fundamentally aware of some of the technology available. I have a lot of experience in the operational space and I know our people can use it to great advantage.”
He said anyone producing combat software and claiming there were no vulnerabilities would be gilding the lily, but added that Elbit had very robust software security development procedures which performed in lockstep with the Commonwealth.
“We are making absolutely every assurance we can that those security vulnerabilities aren’t there,” he said. “I refute that there is any security backdoor. “We are in positive discussions with the Commonwealth and we are still trying to understand what it is and where we are going to go.
“We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the Commonwealth and we will get this resolved as soon as we both possibly can.”