A C-27J Spartan transport aircraft from 35SQN takes off from Walcha Airport during a training mission. Northrop Grumman provides sustainment services for the C-27J and C-130J’s AN/APN-241 radar at its new Richmond facility. (DEFENCE)
Northrop Grumman says it is continuing to work through plans to become an anchor tenant at the new aerotropolis planned for Western Sydney Airport.
But with Western Sydney Airport not due to become operational until 2026, Northrop Grumman has in the meantime set up its Electronic Sustainment Centre (ESC) at RAAF Base Richmond. Intended to support a range of advanced electronic systems such as communications systems, electronic warfare equipment and targeting pods, the ESC initially is supporting the Northrop Grumman-built APN-241 tactical transport radar fitted to the RAAF’s C-130J Hercules and C-27J Spartan airlifters.
“Richmond was easy for us, because we already have a presence there. We have facilities, buildings and a workforce, and so it was very easy to expand our existing operation when we had to do it very rapidly,” Andrew Pryor, director of business development for Northrop Grumman Australia’s Technology Services business, unit told Australian media earlier this month.
“What’s that meant we can do is focus almost exclusively on providing the types of services we need to provide today. Support of our existing products beginning with APN-241 and we then get to support F-35 components and some of those other systems … without unnecessarily constraining or limiting what we might want to do later on at another location.”
A ceremony to mark the ESC achieving an initial operating capability to support the APN-241 at Richmond is planned for late February, Pryor said, while planning for what eventually takes shape at the Western Sydney Aerotropolis is still in its “early days”.
“Conversations, dialogue is ongoing with the New South Wales Government relative to what that might look like. It’s early days. Obviously it’s a lot of work that is going on behind the scenes and it’s frankly a little bit too early for us to get a feel for what that might look like.”
Northrop Grumman Australia’s director of strategy Mike Gallagher said that as Richmond is a secure military base, the company can undertake work there that it might not be able to from a facility at the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.
“Is the ESC itself going to be an integral part of moving to the aerotropolis, maybe, maybe not,” Gallagher said. “The value that we have at RAAF Richmond is the security aspect, so that allows us an opportunity to do other work that we may not be able to do in an aerotropolis environment, so horses for courses,” he said.
“And so, as time’s marched on, as Andrew said, we’re still in discussion with the New South Wales Government as to what they want the place to look like and they’re looking to us as to what we want it to look like as well, along with what the universities want etc.”
Macquarie Park in Sydney could be a model for the aerotroplis, Gallagher said. “It might be that we end up with is a bit like Macquarie Park out at North Ryde, where you’ve got these engineering, project management hubs.”
An artist’s impression of the Aerotropolis. (NSW GOVT)