In the wake of its 2006-2007 defense budget proposal “To Defend Australia” [PDF], the Australian government announced that it would begin a comprehensive review of the country’s defense industrial policy. This is not uncommon in an industry that’s a domestic oligopoly by nature, but has some global export potential. In late 2005, Britain also undertook a review of its defense industrial policy, leading to wide-ranging recommendations and a new blueprint.
Australia’s road has been slower. Initial steps were taken under a Liberal Party government in 2006, and have continued under the current Labor Party government. In June 2010, an initial blueprint was released:
Latest updates: Over $100M in contracts, New ACU pattern for Afghanistan.
The New ACU: Changes
The USA’s Army Combat Uniform (ACU) has undergone significant redesign over the last few years, including the recent addition of an Army Combat Shirt made of different materials. The advances in ACU design undertaken by US Army’s “PEO Soldier,” drew on feedback from the troops and an iterative testing cycle to define the new functional design and look. See the graphic for more details re: specific improvements.
All of the new uniform pieces use a new fractal camouflage scheme called ACUPAT. Because of the wide variety of areas in which ACUPAT may have to operate, and the desire to keep the number of potential uniform schemes to a minimum, ACUPAT is not as locally optimized as other advanced fractal patterns like Hyperstealth’s KA2 for Jordanian forces. It is also very closely derived from the US Marines’ MARPAT, rather than incorporating some of the more recent advances in the field. Like the uniform itself, it may have further room for refinement, but it is an improvement over past conventional camouflage patterns and uniforms. This article tracks the current set of ACU contracts over time, from their initial 2005 issue to the present; as well as changes to US ACU patterns.
Truckin’: A report [pdf] by the Democratic staff of a US House Committee on Oversight and Government Report subcommittee criticizes DoD for lax oversight of the $2.16 billion Afghan Host Nation Trucking contract.
In June 2010, Michelin Aircraft Tire Corp. in Greenville, SC received a $101.1 million firm-fixed-price performance based logistics contract that supports 23 separate tire types aboard V-22 family tilt-rotors; H-60, H-46, and H-53 family helicopters; AV-8B Harrier II and F/A-18 family fighters; EA-6B Prowler jamming aircraft; P-3 Orion maritime patrol planes; and E-2/C-2 family cargo and AWACS planes.
The original contract was competitively awarded, with 11 firms originally solicited and 2 offers received by the US Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-00-D-042G). The base contract was issued for $70.3 million and up to 163,581 tires in October 2000, and Option 1 was exercised for $92.9 million in July 2005. The June 2010 Option 2 award brings the announced total to $264.3 million, of a total value that was originally announced as $366.5 million maximum with all options exercised.
USN F/A-18C, Italian AV-8Bs
Work on Option 2 will be performed in Greenville, SC (100%), and the contract will run to January 2016. Funding is provided by the Defense Business Operating Fund and Navy Working Capital Funds, and will not expire before the end of the fiscal year. Most of this option is expected to support American needs, but this announcement also includes foreign military sales support for Australia (F/A-18, H-60, P-3); Egypt (E-2, H-60); Italy (AV-8B); Japan (E-2, H-46, H-60); Kuwait (F/A-18 C/D); Malaysia (F/A-18 C/D); New Zealand (P-3); Spain (AV-8B, H-60); and Taiwan (E-2, H-60, P-3 coming), who had participated in previous contracts at a 90/10 USA/FMS split. Previous announcements added H-3 Sea King helicopters, which are used by some of these countries, but this announcement does not. Previous contracts also covered F-14 Tomcat fighters, S-3 Viking sea control aircraft, and T-2 Buckeye trainers, all of which have joined the Sea King in withdrawal from US Navy service.
US Special Operations Command (US SOCOM) has been extremely busy since Sept 11/01, a situation which creates corresponding demands on their support infrastructure. SOCOM is famous for having a practical, results-oriented, “get it done now” approach to contracting, and there are a number of umbrella contracts designed to provide them with outsourced support and maintenance services of all kinds. One of the these contracts is SOFSA CLS (Special Operations Forces Support Activity, Contractor Logistics Support); contrary to some media reports that it exemplifies a trend toward contracted services, it has been running for over 20 years now.
On March 3/09, the Pentagon announced that Lockheed Martin would be replacing L-3 Communications Integrated Systems as the designated contractor for SOFSA CLS, which has 3 primary components: (1) aircraft, vehicle and equipment maintenance, (2) critical infrastructure support, and (3) business process transformation. L-3 protested that award, received a sizeable interim award, and got the Lockheed win canceled, pending a re-compete. Then, a May 2010 scandal changed everything…
BAE recently announced that Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) had awarded a 12th successive annual contract to produce Nulka (Abor. “be quick”) hovering decoy rockets for the Australian, American, and Canadian navies. The A$ 40 million (about $35 million) “Option 20” deal extends production to 2013.
The SEA 1937 Nulka project was conceived as an Australian/American joint effort, and began with a Memorandum of Understanding in 1986. The Mk.53 Nulka system was designed to supplement “hard kill” systems like missiles and Phalanx guns, and standard chaff/flare decoy systems, with a slightly different approach. The Nulka rocket is launched from the ship, then flies a controllable semi-hover pattern in the air for a while, emitting confusing I/J-band (8-20 GHz) signals designed to decoy incoming anti-ship missiles away from the ship – and toward the Nulka. This gives ships an option against passive decoy rejection and active angular deflection measures in modern missiles, while overcoming chaff’s issues with wind, slow reaction time, and doppler discrimination ECCM(Electronic Counter Counter-Measures).
To date, BAE says that over 940 of their Mk.234/ Mk.250 Nulka rockets have been produced and deployed on more than 130 surface ships, earning more than A$ 800 million over the program’s lifetime. BAE Systems is the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin makes the electronic warfare payload, and Aerojet makes the rocket motor.