Defence spends up big on systems

Australia's military will go hell for leather over the next 10 years to network, integrate and make interoperable all of its force systems as part of the $10 billion Defence Capability Plan.

Released this month, the public version of the DCP reveals for the first time the sheer depth and scale of the massive systems integration task the Australian military has set itself under the mandate of Network Centric Warfare. Of the 113 projects outlined in the DCP, 97 include electronic systems and networks at their core – from networking connections for ground troops to identify friend or foe to Web-enabling terabytes of maps and geospatial data.

Moreover, due to the sensitive security around so much of the projected expenditure, the most of the work will need to be completed within Australia, either by suitably qualified Australians or appropriate individuals recruited by the so-called 'Five Eyes' group of nations (Australia, Canada, NZ, UK, US).

In terms of traditional IT some of the larger projects revealed include up to $400 million for the Defence Wide Area Communications Network, $50 million for intelligence IT infrastructure, $150 million for tactical data fusion, and $350 million for the Web-enabling of Defence's maps and geospatial information – to name just a few.

One local firm set to reap substantial benefits from the DCP is Canberra-based developer MediaWare Solutions, whose video processing software has been deployed by the US Air Force and Navy on the sort of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a squadron of which Australia will shortly buy.

The firm's offering takes real-time video from UAVs, converting it into a massive mosaic of still images that also show moving objects beneath it – including positional data such as speed, direction, pitch, yaw and slew.

MediaWare founder and director David Keightley is understandably chipper about prospects for the local IT industry under the new DCP.

"I'm very hopeful for Australian systems [developers and integrators]. The talent available here is superb. Sure, there are big chunks [of the DCP] that we can't supply, but there are certainly other big chunks that we can. It's enormous but it's do-able. The ability of the Australia[n IT and communications sector] to deliver on this is low risk," Keightley said.

Chairman of the Australian Defence Information and Electronic Systems Association (ADIESA) Geoff Rhodes was also upbeat, but said that his membership, which includes Tenix, Kaz, HP and Microsoft, still had to digest the 200-page summary to determine how the cards would fall.

"The DCP will have a significant impact on the Australian electronics and IT industries over the next 10 years, and we are currently evaluating what that impact might be."

Australian companies known to already be benefiting from the first stages of projects now incorporated in the DCP include Mincom and the Kaz Group.

Bang for your buck: what's on the Network Centric Warfare menu for the Australian ITC industry:

Project: Surveillance Enhancement [JP 2096]
Description: Correlation and fusion of data sourced from multiple sensors including information management and dissemination.
Cost estimate: $750 million-$1 billion
Decisions: FY 2011/14
Roll out: 2014/16

Project: Defence Management Systems Improvement [JP 2080]
Description: Continuing multiphased upgrades for Defence's core enterprise and management IT systems including Defence Information Environment and Management Information Environment. Heavy focus on legacy systems.
Cost estimate: $120-$185 million
Decisions: FY 2003/16
Roll out: 2004/18

Project: Computer Network Defence, Defence Network Management System, [JP 2068]
Description: Enhancement of network management systems including integration of disparate systems. Reduction of network vulnerability through acquisition of advanced network defence hardware and software including development of a "survivable" Defence Network Operations Centre.
Cost estimate: $50-$80 million
Decisions: FY 2004/5
Roll out: 2006/8

Project: Battlespace Communications System [JP 2072]
Description: Multiphased rollout of communications infrastructure, including data for all tactical land forces. Heavy emphasis on systems engineering, development, integration and network management systems.
Cost estimate: $550-$700 million + $97 million confirmed (phase 1 RFT, 2004)
Decisions: FY 2004/5, 2009/12
Roll out: 2007/9 and 2011/13

Project: Joint Theatre Distribution System [JP 126]
Description: "Whole of capability" supply chain project to "address a number of deficiencies in the ADF's ability to conduct logistics information", including management information systems, interfaces and nodes.
Cost estimate: $150-$200 million
Decisions: FY 2006/7
Roll out: 2008/10

Project: Joint Intelligence Support System (JISS) [DEF 7013]
Description: High priority databases, data acquisition, fusion and transformation including upgraded IT infrastructure, networks and applications. Cost estimate: $50 million
Decisions: FY 2008/9, 2010/11
Roll out: 2010/12

Project: Friend or Foe Identification [JP 90]
Description: Little specific information provided, but believed to be a network-based identification system to positively identify all players in a battlespace to prevent "fratricide".
Cost estimate: $150-$200 million
Decisions: FY 2006/7
Roll out: 2007/9

Project: Airborne Surveillance for Land Operations [JP 129]
Description: Acquisition of Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and related systems including computerised ground control, mission planning software, data link infrastructure, imagery exploitation and dissemination, communications and information systems, integration, sensors and near real time intelligence fusion systems.
Cost estimate: $100-$150 million
Decisions: FY 2003/4
Roll out: 2008/10

Project: Military Satellite Communications [JP 2008]
Description: Multi phased development of military satellite infrastructure for strategic and tactical communications (voice and data), including Theatre Broadcast System and sat comms for mobile assets. Includes communication and IT systems, spectrum coordination and alternative platform technologies.
Cost estimate: $480-$650 million
Decisions: FY 2005/6, 2011/12, 2013/14
Roll out: 2006/8 and 2013/15

Project: ADF Joint Command Support Environment [JP 2030]
Description: Extension of Command functionality across all forces through development of applications to support planning and conduct of ADF operations into a single system. Heavy emphasis on IT systems and infrastructure design and integration.
Cost estimate: $200-$300 million
Decisions: FY 2006/7, 2010/13
Roll out: 2007/9 and 2011/13

Project: Space Based Surveillance [2044]
Description: Acquisition of space based surveillance capability including major investments in related ICT and infrastructure. Local industry likely to supply "computer equipment and system infrastructure".
Cost estimate: $100-$150 million
Decisions: FY 2008/11, 2010/13
Roll out: 20010/12 and 2012/13

Project: ADF Medical Capability [JP 2060]
Description: Heavy emphasis on upgrades of health IT systems, e-health, tele-health and health logistics systems.
Cost estimate: $75-$350million
Decisions: FY 2003/4, 2011/14
Roll out: 2006/8 and 2014/16

Project: Force Level Electronic Warfare (EW) [DEF 224]
Description: Multi phased upgrade and replacement of force level EW capability to provide integrated signals intelligence and electronic warfare capability to support operational and tactical commands.
Cost estimate: $300-$400 million
Decisions: FY 2003/4, 2009/12
Roll out: 2007/9 and 2011/13

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