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Senator the Hon David Fawcett
Assistant Minister for Defence
- Mike Banham (Senator Fawcett’s office): (02) 6277 3409
- Defence Media: (02) 6127 1999, email@example.com
4 December 2018
Simon, thanks for that introduction. I could almost hear the questions from many of you saying: what would an army experimental test pilot be doing talking to a group of people about maritime allocations of unmanned vehicles? Both elements seem to be a bit contradictory, but as Paul Mandziy will tell you, I actually graduated from Navy Staff College, so I can spell PWO, I know the sharp end from the blunt end of the ship and sea control and sea denial and all those good things.
And as Scott Reeman would tell you, as a test pilot, we actually lay claim to some of the first real UAV work here in Australia. The Jindivik was one of our first accomplishments in terms of unmanned vehicles or there to be shot down as a target. But before that was actually launched in 1952. In 1951 the prototype of that, which was known as the Pika, was actually flown by ARDU test pilots to prove that the thing would fly before we took the pilot seat out and put in an automatic control system. So, experimental test pilots and army folk have a role even in maritime UAVs.
Look, Simon’s asked me to make a few comments about the paper here at the launch and he asked me to talk to the strategic level, which I’ll do very briefly because most of you know the strategic environment that we’re working in. I don’t often contradict an author when I launch his report, but I’d actually say circa 2035 in probably inaccurate in terms of talking about the more complex environment that we are operating in, both from a geopolitical perspective but also a strategic military perspective, the environment is rapidly changing, and I think we will be in that position well before 2035.
The motivations for Australia to be concerned about this are well expounded in the White Paper, and a lot of current discussions. We’re a maritime trading nation. We rely for both our security and our economic prosperity on the global rules-based order. That is under challenge from non-state actors such as ISIS and others; from state-actors undertaking operations in the South China Sea right through to what we see in Ukraine, Crimea recently in Europe and other parts of the world – where we see ideologies that form governments that say: might is right, and that we will not brook dissent or take account of the rights of minorities or less powerful actors. Australia has always pushed back and we will continue to do that, which is why we have an obligation to prepare to confront these changing circumstances.
We have to still invest. Even though things like UAVs are exciting, we still have to invest in the capital platforms, whether they be air, land or sea, because they form the backbone of our Defence Force. You’ve seen the $200 billion that this government’s investing. But importantly, you’ve also seen they concept of the IIP – the Integrated Investment Program. So we’re saying: what are all the enablers that underpin this? And I’ll come back to that in a minute because it also applies to this whole concept of unmanned systems.
The second thing we’ve said is: how do we engage with industry more proactively. Because, if there’s a lesson that we’ve learnt in all three domains – land, air and sea – is if we don’t have the appropriate sovereign capability and local industry to sustain military capability so that it’s available when the maritime commander or the air commander needs it, so that it’s effective against the threats that they’re facing, or that the cost of ownership over the whole lifecycle is affordable, then it’s not value for money and we shouldn’t have actually procured it. So, part of the Government’s vision in the Defence Industry Policy Statement 2016 is to say how do we lean forward and engage with industry more proactively to make sure that those parts of industry that we need to be competent and capable with the capacity to meet our sovereign needs; so that equipment that we have is available when we need it, effective against current threats and affordable is there? And that’s been paradigm shift – the whole concept of industry as a fundamental input to capability, the whole concept of leaning forward and having early engagement and longer term partnerships with industry is part of trying to make that piece sustainable.
And I’d encourage you not to take the shallow headlines in newspapers that say this is all just about jobs by politicians; the thinking behind it is about how do we make the equipment that the taxpayer procures for the men and women of the ADF to use to defer, to deter or if necessary, to defeat, a threat to Australia’s national interest value for money. That means available when we need it, effective and affordable. That’s the whole basis of it and it’s a paradigm shift in thinking for Defence, and for those of you who are in uniform, I’d encourage you to rethink, re-engage and understand the motivation behind that change because it is about having capability there when we need it.
But the other thing that’s changing is technology. The platform, whilst it’s important to have the right platform and as we look at the Hunter class – something designed to be an anti-submarine vessel – so, the platform has a lot of unique characteristic. The thing that gives the capability edge, that will win the war, are the systems on board. And so increasingly, we see that the upgrade cycle for systems is far quicker than we can actually sustain for platforms. Now, that has two impacts. One, perhaps we need to find different platforms to carry some systems, and that’s where your concept of lower cost, rapidly reducible – and rapidly replaceable – UAVs comes in. It also drives things like through-life support. One of the outcomes of the First Principles Review was to look at how we do through-life support of our major capital equipment and, at the moment, we are still very much in an old world mindset, where we require everything in paper and 2D diagrams that are have a very drawn-out, tech reg structure. If you look at agile small companies now, they do most of their prototyping; they do most of their qualification using quite advanced laser tracking. They can have it up in seconds to show that within a few microns the piece they’ve manufactured is actually complaint with all the specifications and fit-for-purpose. We need our regulators to be at a place where we can evolve the configuration of our major platforms in a much more timely manner than we have in the past.
The last area I’ll talk about rather than talking about the UAVs themselves – because you’ve seen what we’ve done, you’ve seen our use of Heron; you know that we’re buying Triton so the whole concept of UAVs have a sensor platform that’s well-established. I was talking to Paul before about the autonomous warrior in all different scenarios, that they’ve been used as sensor platforms. The decision by government to invest in Reaper shows that we can complete that kill word and have them as shooter platforms as well. And there is the potential for that in the future in the maritime space, just as there is in other spaces.
But the part I want to talk about that’s drawn out in the report comes back to enablers. Just like the IIP says platforms are great but they not the whole capability; we need the enablers. The sort of things that are talked about in the report, and I’d be encouraging Defence to think about – because I am – is that when you look at what the report says about the unavailability of some test ranges, be it lack of early engagement with industry, the lack of test and evaluation – or what I would call capability assurance capacity – right from pre-gate zero through the acquisition process to in-service – it says that we have a long way to go and there’s a lot of potential for us to partner with industry to develop that capability assurance model, not just around the platform, but if you look at the things the report says about bandwidth, about cyber, about the networks that are required; if we want capability assurance of this system as a part of our warfighting ability then we need to make sure that all of those systems perform when they need to as we expect them to do, and that we understand their vulnerabilities and can protect them. That means it needs to be designed in and tested and verified before the joint force commander, land commander, sea commander; whoever actually deploys them so they understand their capabilities and their vulnerabilities.
And those enables that are identified in this report, I actually think are one of the key things that Defence, in this case Navy, need to be focussing on because it’s very easy to be distracted by the excitement of the platform that’s flying or splashing through the water. It’s a good photo op, but if you don’t get the enablers right, you don’t have the capability. And for far too long, Australia has relied on our overseas partners, and to a certain extent industry, to do some of those enabling functions. Yet, as we move more to a point where we are a sovereign designer and producer of defence capability – and we’re seeing that already in the number of things that we’re starting to export –which will only increase – then we and industry collectively need to develop some of those enabling functions in terms on capability assurance, test ranges, the relationships, the ability to certify and provide our decision-makers accurate, timely information for them to make risk-based decisions about the capability that they’re about to use in the defence of Australia and its interests.
Simon and the institute, I commend you on the report. It’s given a good range of issues for Defence to engage with and think about, and I look forward to working the department, not only in a maritime space, but more broadly as we look at how we embrace the new paradigm we’ve put in place in terms on engagement with industry, and as First Principles shows, that focus on capability assurance, even through to things like the sovereign industry capabilities has identified test and evaluation certification – capability assurance – as something that crosses the boundary between Defence and industry, and we need to build up that sovereign capability.
Thanks very much.
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