Industry teams align for ADF Sovereign SATCOM project
In the wake of the release of the ADF’s Project JP9102 Australian Defence SATCOM System (ADSS) capability request for tender (RFT), industry has been busy forming teams and positioning to respond to the requirement.
The RFT was issued on 22 April 2021, and closes on 10 January 2022. The long response time reflects not only the complexity of the requirement, but also the need for industry to engage with each other and fully understand the capabilities each team member can offer for the capability, as well as to maximise their all-important Australian Industry Content (AIC).
As Max Blenkin noted in his Sovereign SATCOM article published in our Jan-Feb 2021 issue, Defence’s SATCOM vision has evolved: “where once it viewed space capabilities as an adjunct to land, sea, and air operations, it now views space as a vital operational domain in its own right, requiring its own substantial investment.”
The 2020 Force Structure Plan states, “The combination of an increasing reliance on space capabilities with the capacity limitations of Australia’s legacy systems must be addressed”. To this end, the government has committed around $7 billion towards space capabilities over the next decade and, under JP9102, up to $3 billion will be spent to enhance SATCOM out to 2029, creating the ADSS.
To date, four teams have formed and declared their intention to tender for JP9102.
BOEING DEFENCE AUSTRALIA
Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) has brought together a team which includes Leidos Australia, Viasat, Saber, Clearbox Systems, and the Indigenous Defence and Infrastructure Consortium (IDIC).
“Boeing is committed to providing a modern sovereign solution to the ADF with high confidence on schedule and cost,” BDA emerging markets director, Matt Buckle said in a June 24 release. “To deliver this, we are partnering with strong businesses who offer best-in-class capability here in country.”
The release says Leidos will provide cyber, security, network integration services and software development environments and cyber test ranges; Viasat will bring 25 years of Australian satellite program experience to the team; and IDIC will help find opportunities for Indigenous-owned and controlled businesses on JP9102 by aligning discrete work packages to their capabilities as well as supporting capability growth.
“This is a significant investment in sovereign space capability for the ADF,” Boeing’s JP9102 lead, Kathryn Burr told media in a May round-table. “Their requirements very much focussed on a combination of capacity to support the ever growing need for SATCOM across all three services and the joint domain, and they have a need for coverage, obviously in the primary area of interest in the Australian region, but more broadly into the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
“They have some critical requirements about the flexibility and their desire to manage that system as they see fit,” she added. “And then there’s resilience – the threat environment today is not going to be the same as the threat environment tomorrow, so a system that is resilient and is able to be adapted to meet that changing threat environment is very important.”
Boeing also announced in September that it would collaborate on space product research and development with Melbourne’s RMIT.
“Australia’s burgeoning space sector requires the production of complex, low volume, bespoke components not suited to conventional manufacturing techniques,” BDA’s director of Aerospace Engineering and Production, Paul Watson said in a September 14 release.
“This partnership will develop new knowledge in advanced manufacturing technologies which will not only stimulate the development of a local fabrication capability, but will also expose Australian industry to space export markets as part of Boeing’s global supply chain.”
In October 2020 Airbus announced the formation of Team Maier which it says will bring together Australian space and technology companies, and academia for its bid for JP9102.
Using the indigenous word for ‘meteor’ as spoken by the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, Team Maier has so far announced three industry members – (UHF) ground systems specialist Blacktree Technology, ground infrastructure company UGL, and software company Clearbox Solutions.
In a statement announcing the launch of Team Maier, Airbus Head of Country – Australia and New Zealand, Andrew Mathewson said, “We have always recognised the expertise and capabilities that Australian companies and academia can bring to our business, and how important synergies can be achieved.
“Reinforcing our long-standing commitment to the Commonwealth of Australia, our new Team Maier brings in partners to enable the ADF to achieve its strategic objectives of shape, deter, and respond across the Indo-Pacific region,” Mathewson added.
In a July 2021 release, Blacktree CEO, Joe Nevin said, “Working with Airbus on the Skynet program to deliver innovative solutions to the UK MoD, was a key enabler in our mission to become a global market leader in satcom ground segment solutions.”
Airbus operates the UK’s Skynet 5 military SATCOM system, a constellation of four satellites – Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C, and 5D built, owned, and operated for the UK by Airbus. Blacktree has been a part of Airbus’s Skynet team for 15 years and installed the UHF antennas for three of the satellite ground station sites.
“Blacktree’s reach now extends from our headquarters in Australia, to solving communications problems for customers in the UK, Europe, US, and to our long-standing customer, the ADF,” Nevin added. “We welcome the opportunity to join Team Maier to deliver world leading, proven, sovereign solutions to military satcom programmes in Australia and, in particular, JP9102.”
In August 2021, Airbus announced that Sydney-based UGL and Clearbox Solutions would also join Team Maier. The announcement said UGL will construct all the ground infrastructure for the JP9102 project, including the communications systems, network operations and systems integration, and its ongoing sustainment. It says UGL has more than two decades of experience supporting the ADF, including in the most recent upgrade of the RAN’s communications and logistics facility at HMAS Harman near Canberra.
LOCKHEED MARTIN AUSTRALIA
Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) has so far announced two team members for its JP9102 bid, Ronson Gears and Clearbox Systems. LMA says it has a long heritage in the development and delivery of some of the world’s most resilient satellite communications networks, and that its bid will be guided by the principles of sovereignty, agility, and flexibility. In May 2021, LMA announced the enhancement of its space team with the appointment of Mike Scott as Program Director, and Julia Dickinson as Chief Engineer Military Satellite Communications.
Scott comes to the role with experience in senior positions across the defence, rail, and mining sectors, including 15 years in the RAAF. He has worked on various projects including the in-country modification of the RAAF’s E-7A Wedgetail, the ADF’s High Frequency Communications System, and command and control systems for both the RAAF and the Army.
Dickinson will be responsible for the overall Australian engineering performance for Lockheed Martin’s JP9102 SATCOM program solution. She joins LMA from NBN Co where she was the lead technical authority for the space segment of the national broadband provider’s satellite program. Dickinson has also worked as satellite operations director at Worldspace, and with OPTUS Satellite for 12 years in satellite procurement and operations.
“The appointments of Mike and Julia represent a key part of the growth strategy for Lockheed Martin Space,” David Ball, Regional Director Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) of Lockheed Martin Space said. “Both bring a wealth of experience and are highly regarded in the space community. Their appointments demonstrate Lockheed Martin Australia’s commitment to building both local and international capability.”
In a statement to ADBR, Ball said, “LMA looks forward to delivering a sovereign MILSATCOM solution for Australia through JP9102, which will support the development of enduring sovereign space capabilities, create jobs, skill the workforce and generate exports.
“Our JP9102 solution is uniquely designed for operational superiority over current systems in the industry,” he added. “It not only delivers unparalleled coverage, capacity and resilience, but also extensibility on an expedited schedule. This is intended to meet Defence’s unique strategic and capability requirements, and also deliver on the Australian sovereign space capability needs.”
Ronson Gears provides precision gear components for the Common Solar Array Drive Assembly (CSADA), which will be utilised on several Lockheed Martin satellite platforms, including those to be used for its JP9102 solution.
Despite Clearbox Systems being listed as a member of all the teams to announce so far – reportedly because the company is the ADF’s incumbent SATCOM spectrum monitoring and network management software provider – LMA has provided the most information about what Clearbox brings to its bid.
It says Clearbox’s Foresight ESM software has also been used to demonstrate the agility of LMA’s SATCOM control segment, which serves as the crucial link between the satellites and ground stations in Defence’s future sovereign satcom system. Foresight ESM is a sovereign Electromagnetic Spectrum Management (ESM) application developed from Clearbox’s collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG).
OPTUS announced in August 2021 that it has teamed with Raytheon Australia and Thales Australia to form Team AUSSAT.
OPTUS will be prime for Team AUSSAT, and says it is “Australia’s pre-eminent satellite provider” having launched 10 satellites and operating 13 spacecraft since 1985 – including the OPTUS C1 satellite which currently carries an ADF communications payload – and provides support to more than 100 international space programs.
“As sector pioneers and the leading investor in the Australian space industry, our solution will leverage our long track record of delivering for Australia’s Defence agencies, supporting Australian industry capabilities, and our unwavering commitment to deliver a sovereign solution that enhances Australia’s security,” OPTUS Chief Executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said in a release.
“The bid team … has a unique proposition being the only team with an unrivalled history of owning and operating satellites in Australia, by Australians, for Australians – drawing synergies from two partner companies with their exceptional pedigrees in building and delivering world-class Defence capabilities,” she added.
Raytheon Australia Managing Director Michael Ward said the company was ready to draw on decades of expertise in delivering certified and integrated space systems. “Raytheon Australia has been delivering certified sovereign space solutions and complex system integration to the Australian Defence Force for decades, partnering with them and local industry to unlock the full potential of satellite data,” he said.
Raytheon Australia is responsible for providing systems operations, engineering, maintenance, and base support services for the Harold E. Holt Defence Precinct in WA, and also operates and maintains the RAAF and USAF C-Band Radar and Space Surveillance Telescope.
Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said, “Thales Australia has been a trusted partner of the ADF for more than three decades, delivering advanced secure communication solutions, and we’re proud to partner with Optus and Raytheon Australia on this project.”
In an April 2021 submission to the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources inquiry into developing Australia’s space industry, Thales said, through its TAS (Thales Alenia Space) tie-up in Europe, it has built some of the world’s largest, high-throughput broadband, and resilient military satellites. It says this technology can be leveraged through opportunities like JP9102 when combined with existing and new Australian industry capability to enhance Australian sovereign capabilities.
This article appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of ADBR.