Defence in $100m push to build sovereign capabilities
Defence contracts totalling more than $100 million have been handed out to a variety of local businesses and educational institutions as the federal government moves to build critical sovereign capabilities.
The move aims to ensure Australia builds the skills to deliver and sustain critical defence capabilities. It also seeks to ensure supply chain issues, such as those highlighted during COVID-19, are reduced.
The injection into Australian enterprises is also putting money back into the Australian economy, creating jobs and supporting the country’s efforts to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic.
High-powered laser technology secures $1.8m in federal funding
The University of South Australia has been awarded a $1.8 million commonwealth government contract through the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG). The university will develop the technology underpinning the next generation of high-powered lasers for the Australian defence and manufacturing sectors.
The three-year project will be led by Professor David Lancaster and will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Adelaide.
The funding will go towards building a new type of high-powered laser that combines multiple smaller lasers, and fine-tuning the manufacturing process to make it cheaper and more efficient. This will help bring Australia up to speed with advances in laser technology in other developed nations.
“High-powered lasers are increasingly being used in defence and manufacturing, but despite a long history of developing lasers in Australia, our technology is still relatively immature compared to other countries,” says Lancaster, professor of laser engineering at the University of South Australia.
The substantial gap between research outputs and the needs of our defence industry has meant Australia has heavily relied on buying technology from other countries. Most nations severely limit the export of their lasers, which has restricted Australia’s ability to meet its needs.
The lasers will be manufactured at the University of South Australia’s Laser Physics and Photonics Devices Lab. The specialist laser glass will be developed at the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensors.
“In the past, I have worked on lasers that take years to build and cost millions of dollars. I think it’s more important to put years of effort to develop the technology and manufacturing processes to build many miniature and safer lasers, which cost hundreds of dollars each,” Lancaster says.
Silentium to deliver passive radar systems for Army
Silentium Defence has secured a $7.4 million contract from the Department of Defence to supply its Maverick M-series passive radar system to the Australian Army for capability development and evaluation activities.
Designed in collaboration with Defence, it is the first high-performance, low-power, soldier-portable, covert radar system for air defence and maritime surveillance, providing critical sovereign capability for the ADF and its allies. The Maverick M-series also enables users to see without being seen, an obvious advantage in the air, land and in maritime domains.
A complementary or replacement technology to traditional surveillance systems, the Maverick M-series passive radars use existing energy in the environment (for example, broadcast television signals) as their transmission source. As they do not emit, they do not highlight the user’s presence or create a radiation hazard. This makes the radar system quick, safe, and easy to deploy, even in densely populated environments.
They are also more cost-effective than traditional active radar systems, which require spectrum allocation to operate.
“The battlespace continues to evolve, and we see greater penetration of new, unmanned aerial systems alongside traditional threats that put our troops, operations and assets in harm’s way,” says Dr James Palmer, chief executive of Silentium Defence.
The Maverick M-series is part of Silentium’s broader passive surveillance product suite, which includes other high-performance sensor systems for critical space domain awareness and air traffic management.
Joint venture begins assembly of guided missile integration kits
Varley Rafael Australia (VRA) began local production of the Spike guided missile integration kits (SIKs) in July of this year. VRA is a joint venture between the 135-year-old Australia based Varley Group and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, bringing together Australia’s oldest defence enterprise with a world leader in defence technology.
VRA was recently awarded $183,022 of the $8 million Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority (SICP) grants provided by the Department of Defence. The grants are expected to improve domestic manufacturing capabilities, to further support the ADF.
Grants funds will be used to expand current guided weapons capabilities, setting up and commissioning a Spike launcher assembly line, and for upgrading facilities and associated security measures.
“SICP funding provided by government supported upskilling and acquisition of specialised tools and equipment for this project, which will now be used for future in-country production,” says Jacob Blitman, chief executive of VRA.
The kits include the launcher and missile control elements of the Spike guided missile, which will be integrated into the LAND400-2 Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles.
This is the first time SIKs’ strictly controlled production assembly activities have been undertaken outside of Rafael’s Israel facilities. The rollout will use VRA’s skilled engineering personnel and provide VRA with direct access and licences to advanced guided missiles and their extensive associated systems’ transfer of technology (ToT).
“All personnel at VRA are highly skilled engineers and QA personnel that transited from the automotive industry into our Defence activities,” Blitman says.
“This is a small but critical step demonstrating real sovereign capability within the guided weapons and explosive ordnance (GWEO) space fully aligned with government’s GWEO enterprise approach.”
Engaging with Australian companies under the government’s GWEO enterprise approach will help establish a true sovereign capability in the short term and provide a sovereign battlefield advantage to the Australian Defence Force.
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