Countries seek to build on established co-operation

Australia and the USA are exploring a direct linkage of their defence requirements, including aerospace systems, with co-operative acquisition programmes, as a means of improving interoperability between the countries.

Senior officials from the Australian and the US departments of defence met last week in Sydney. This follows an initial set of proposals on co-operative acquisitions and service-to-service strategic alliances created at meetings in Canberra in early December.

It also follows renewed Australian interest in joining the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, with a Royal Australian Air Force team holding talks with programme officials in Washington last week.

The co-operative acquisition initiative builds on a strategic co-operation agreement finalised between the US Navy and Royal Australian Navy in September. That agreement provides for all Australian submarines to be equipped with US-supplied combat data systems and weaponry.

The negotiations are dominated by naval interests, particularly Australian plans to build four 6,000t air-warfare destroyers.

According to Dr Paris Genalis, director of naval warfare, US Department of Defense Strategic Command, and senior US negotiator in the process, the initiative follows "recognition of the need that, as we go towards the future, it is important that the surface-ship capability that Australia is building be fully interoperable with the USN. However, interoperability also spills over into other services.

"Interoperability between our two navies and your air force would be very welcome, and then why not the US Air Force as well?"

Speaking at the US-Australia Maritime Co-operation Conference in Sydney on 31 January, Genalis said the initiative remains at an early stage. Meetings with the Australian defence department so far have seen "some pretty frank discussions with senior people", Genalis said.

The timeframes for the new agreements are "not defined and the definition really depends on what the Australian Defence Force is doing about developing its requirements", he added.

Source: Flight International