Airservices Australia and the country's Department of Defence are expected to release their long-awaited request for tender for OneSky - a new combined civil-military air traffic management system - in the middle of this year, with contract award possible by the fourth quarter.
If it proceeds as planned, Australia will become the first country to commission a joint civil-military ATM system.
A request for information for the project, believed to be valued at A$300-A$500 million ($306-510 million), was issued in 2011 which resulted in considerable industry input, says Airservices, with Thales, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Boeing among the respondents.
The RFI was "an early indication of how the project would come together", says Airservices. Since then, a dedicated programme office comprising Airservices and Department of Defence personnel has been established in Canberra, putting together the full information for the tender.
As a prelude to the release of the tender, some 80 industry participants attended a briefing on the project last December, when preliminary documentation was released. As a result, Airservices, which is leading the programme, believes that industry is "well-primed" and the tender requirements will contain few surprises.
Airservices is aiming to complete the process within six months, it says.
It hopes to have the system up and running in the 2018-2020 timeframe, although industry sources suggest the latter end of that period is more achieveable. The combined ATM system is expected to have a service life of 15-20 years.
Australia's present civil ATM system, The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS), which was supplied by Thales, entered service in 2000.
Thales will pitch its TopSky ATC modular and scaleable system for the new requirement, says Lionnel Wonneberger, director of strategy and business development at Thales ATM operations. Thales has a centre of ATM excellence based in Melbourne, including its Centre for Advanced Studies in ATM, which is developing next-generation technology.