Defence force shoots manufacturers in the foot

The Australian Government is considering buying US$202 million worth of missiles and services from the US to complete its Boeing F/A-18 Hornet program, leaving Australian defence manufacturers for dead.

The Government, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, reportedly requested a quote for the sale of up to 110 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and associated equipment and services to the value of US$202 million.

There are no manufacturers in Australia with the provisions to produce advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, however we are capable of providing equipment and services for the missiles.

The US’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the Australian Government wanted to buy:

  • 110 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles
  • 10 AIM-120C-7 Air Vehicle-Instrumented
  • 16 AIM-120C-7 Captive Air Training Missiles
  • Containers, weapon system support equipment, support and test equipment, site survey, transportation, repair and return, warranties, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data
  • Maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, 
  • U.S. Government and contractor representative engineering, logistics, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics support.

It is unclear whether the Government requested the quote on goods and services for budgetary reasons only, or if it would indeed hand over all US$202 million to US suppliers. 

According to Neil James, executive director of defence industry watchdog, the Australian Defence Association (ADA), it is common for Australian companies to provide maintenance and spare parts for defence equipment purchased overseas. 

“Most of the systems are maintained in Australia by a sub-contractor. Even if [the contract] comes with ‘through life support’, they might sub-contract the support to Australia,” he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

The missiles in question are made by US company Raytheon, which is one of the largest defence manufacturers in the world.

Raytheon Australia is a mission systems integrator for land, sea and air, and acted as the combat systems engineer for the Air Warfare Destroyer Program in South Australia.

According to James, Raytheon US could choose to sub-contract services and parts to Australian companies, or it could choose to use its own, preferred suppliers based in the US.

Raytheon Australia media liaison, Gerry Wheeler, declined to comment on the possibility of Australian companies being able to tender for support contracts if the deal goes through.

"Obviously Australia doesn’t do a lot of that sort of thing," he said. 

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