Global un­cer­tainty is our op­por­tu­nity

The Advertiser - - OPINION -

ON May 5, Boe­ing rolled out the first of its Loyal Wing­man un­manned air­craft. Right here, in Aus­tralia.

More tech­ni­cally, it is called the Boe­ing Air­power Team­ing Sys­tem. It is an un­manned air­craft that is de­signed to fly along­side manned air­craft like an F-35, oth­er­wise known as the Joint Strike Fighter, or Aus­tralia’s cur­rent air fleet of F/A-18 Hor­nets, trans­ports like the Her­cules or surveillan­ce and anti-sub­ma­rine air­craft like the Po­sei­don.

This is one of the most ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments in Aus­tralian de­fence in­dus­try in 50 years.

Put sim­ply, it is the first Aus­tralian de­signed and con­structed mil­i­tary air­craft since the 1970s.

Boe­ing and the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment put up the funds for its re­search and devel­op­ment. It is the largest in­vest­ment by Boe­ing in un­manned ve­hi­cles out­side the United States of Amer­ica.

Be­cause this is an Aus­tralian de­signed and con­structed project, 70 per cent of the con­tent of each air­craft is Aus­tralian. That has cre­ated more than 100 new jobs in Queens­land, New South Wales, Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia.

It has sup­ported 36 dif­fer­ent Aus­tralian sup­pli­ers.

What makes this so im­por­tant right now is that it is a tan­gi­ble ex­am­ple of the Aus­tralian de­fence in­dus­try step­ping up and prov­ing it is glob­ally com­pet­i­tive.

It shows that our Aus­tralian ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been recog­nised by one of the world’s big­gest de­fence con­trac­tors and it demon­strates that our gov­ern­ment is not just talk­ing about sup­port­ing the Aus­tralian de­fence in­dus­try but do­ing it.

The COVID-19 pan­demic has ex­posed the very raw di­vi­sions be­tween China and the US.

But the grow­ing great power ri­valry of these two giants in the Indo Pa­cific is not news to any­one who fol­lows de­fence or for­eign pol­icy in our re­gion.

The ten­sion in the South China Sea, on the Korean Penin­sula, in the straits be­tween China and Tai­wan, across the South Pa­cific, over the Sea of Ja­pan and in the re­la­tion­ships within ASEAN and be­tween ASEAN it­self, China and the US, has been pal­pa­ble for many years.

What we are see­ing now, is the pre­pared­ness of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to el­e­vate its rhetoric rather than pa­per over the cracks.

All of this presents op­por­tu­nity for the Aus­tralian de­fence in­dus­try.

The Loyal Wing­man is one prod­uct, a very ex­pen­sive one at that, which could be ex­ported to our friends across the Indo Pa­cific, es­pe­cially those coun­tries that are part of the global net­work of na­tions us­ing the Joint Strike Fighter air­craft.

Mar­kets like Ja­pan, South Korea and Sin­ga­pore im­me­di­ately spring to mind.

But the Loyal Wing­man is just one ex­am­ple.

Aus­tralia is per­fectly po­si­tioned ge­o­graph­i­cally and in its tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­ity to be the Indo Pa­cific hub for the sus­tain­ment and main­te­nance of the Joint Strike Fight­ers op­er­at­ing across the re­gion.

Over time, this will be worth bil­lions of dol­lars in value to the Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try.

Marand in Mel­bourne has al­ready at­tracted more than $1 bil­lion in value in ex­port or­ders through Aus­tralia’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the global Joint Strike Fighter pro­gram.

Na­tions like Viet­nam and the Philip­pines are prospec­tive mar­kets for the ex­port of off­shore pa­trol ves­sels. Austal at Hen­der­son in Western Aus­tralia pro­duce ves­sels of that size now but be­cause of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s in­vest­ment in the 12 Ara­fura Class off­shore pa­trol ves­sels we have built our ship build­ing ca­pa­bil­ity in com­pa­nies like the ASC and the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Ship­build­ing and Ex­port Group as well.

Ja­pan has tra­di­tion­ally ei­ther man­u­fac­tured their own or pur­chased much of their mil­i­tary equip­ment and plat­forms from the US.

More re­cently, it has looked to diver­sify its sources of mil­i­tary ma­te­rial.

That presents op­por­tu­ni­ties for prod­ucts like the Bush­mas­ter and Hawkei mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles, de­signed and built by Thales in Bendigo.

These have also proved of in­ter­est to In­done­sia, Malaysia and Fiji.

Aus­tralian domestic de­mand for mil­i­tary equip­ment is not lin­ear.

Hence the need for de­fence ex­ports to fill the troughs in de­mand from the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment.

The De­fence Ex­port Strat­egy of 2018 is de­signed to do just that.

A $90 mil­lion loan provided to CEA Tech­nolo­gies to ex­pand their Can­berra man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity through the Ex­port Fi­nance De­fence Ex­port Fa­cil­ity is a tan­gi­ble ex­am­ple of the strat­egy work­ing.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment man­dated the use of CEA’s phased ar­ray radar on the nine Hunter Class anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare frigates be­ing built at Os­borne in our ship­yards on the Lefevre Penin­sula.

Not only are they the best of their ca­pa­bil­ity in the world, it gives CEA a fight­ing chance to ex­port that tech­nol­ogy to our al­lies in the Five Eyes na­tions of the US, United King­dom, New Zealand and Canada. That is ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing.

The same can be said for Saab’s 9LV naval com­bat man­age­ment sys­tem that has been man­dated for all of Royal Aus­tralian Navy’s com­bat ships where the Aegis com­bat sys­tem is not oth­er­wise de­ployed.

Ade­laide is the cen­tre of the re­search and devel­op­ment of the 9LV, our gov­ern­ment back­ing our sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cians gives them the shot in the arm to ex­port and de­velop.

De­spite the clouds on the hori­zon, al­ways look for the sil­ver lin­ing.

While the Indo Pa­cific is look­ing to its se­cu­rity, it presents op­por­tu­ni­ties for our de­fence in­dus­try.

Let’s go out there and be part of that com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially now that we have a fight­ing chance to win.

All of this presents op­por­tu­nity for the Aus­tralian de­fence in­dus­try

Pic­ture: PRIME MIN­IS­TER’S OF­FICE

HI-TECH: The first Boe­ing Loyal Wing­man air­craft, de­signed and built in Aus­tralia, will com­mence tri­als soon and is an ex­am­ple of the de­fence in­dus­try op­por­tu­ni­ties for Aus­tralia.

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