Aussie C4ISR options
A quick look at the Australian Defence White Paper shows some interesting developments in the C4ISR sector. It is becoming more of a priority for a country that is seeking to modernise and keep up with its Western allies and ahead of its Asian neighbours.
ISR, EW, space and cyber is one of six capability streams that will be focussed on by the Aussie DoD. It is expected to take 9% of the A$195 bn (US$140 bn) allocated to defence procurement from 2016 to 2025-26, which equates to about A$17.5 bn for this stream over the next decade.
Furthermore, although the numbers of full-time Australian civil servants are being cut, there will be re-balance with 1,200 new positions in the DoD related to intelligence, cyber and space-based capabilities.
The White Paper commits to an upgrade of the air defence network, including the Vigilare air surveillance command and control system, which achieved Full Operational Capability in 2013; and the Jindalee Operational Radar Network, which uses three over-the-horizon radar that searches out to 1,000-3,000km. It also said a new all-source intelligence and processing system would be introduced.
With the upgrade of Vigilare and Jindalee and other air defence surveillance systems, the DoD believes this can be used as a ‘foundation’ for the development of in-theatre missile defence capabilities. It added that there are plans to buy new ground-based radars from 2020.
However, an area where Australia needs outside help is in its space-based capability where there is an increasing use of commercial capability to supplement existing military systems and the cooperation between allies to provide services.
In the White Paper, the Australian DoD states that it wants more imagery and targeting capacity ‘through greater access to allied and commercial space-based capabilities’ and will further develop ISR capabilities over the longer term ‘including through potential investment in space-based sensors’.
With US cooperation, Australian is setting up a space surveillance C-band radar to be operated jointly by both countries as well as re-locate an optical space surveillance telescope to the Harold E Holt Naval Communications Station near Exmouth in Western Australia.
Meanwhile, the Aussies have announced the introduction of five new Gulfstream 550 aircraft for long-range EW that will be introduced from the early 2020s that will add to the capability provided by the fleet of 12 E/A-18G Growler EW aircraft that are slated to enter service from 2018.
On the maritime surveillance side, the Royal Australian Air Force looks like it is going to get an extra seven P-8A Poseidon aircraft that will be added to the eight that they are already getting for a total of 15. Delivery of the first aircraft will be before the end of 2016 and according to the White Paper they will be introduced in the early 2020s.
The P-8As will operate alongside seven new Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned air vehicles that the DoD said will also be acquired from the early 2020s.
At the Singapore Airshow, Boeing stated that this is the right time to buy their P-8As as they can be introduced into the US Navy’s production lots and this allows for unit cost savings. In the UK’s defence review at the end of 2015 it was announced they would buy nine for entry into service in 2019-20. India has received its order of eight aircraft.
According to Saab’s head of support and services, Jonas Hjelm, it is expected that there will be more than 100 submarines in the Asia-Pacific region by 2025. This poses quite a challenge and for countries that do not have a similar sized budget and cannot afford P-8As, even with Boeing’s sweetener deal, therefore Saab has launched two of its own new maritime patrol aircraft options: GlobalEye and Swordfish.