Boeing Australia has been selected as the prime contractor for the development of a new air defence command and reporting system for the Australian military, a move likely to boost its bid for the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) airborne early warning and control requirement.

The project, Air 5333, will replace 30-year-old command reporting systems at RAAF bases Williamstown and Darwin. The new system, estimated to be worth some A$170 million ($100 million) will be delivered by 2001.

Boeing's solution is partially based on a classified airspace command and reporting system developed for the US Department of Defense, as well as on new concepts for tactical aircraft operations developed by the company's own Phantom Works.

The bid by the US contractor defeated rival proposals from Thomson Radar Australia, CelsiusTech of Sweden and US group Aydin. Boeing is expected to use the contract to support risk mitigation in its proposal for the RAAF's airborne early warning and control requirement, for which it is one of three shortlisted contenders.

Air 5333 will also act as the lead acquisition for the introduction of Link 16 secure jam-resistant digital datalink into the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Boeing has teamed with Canberra-based Australian Technology Information, a tactical datalink test specialist, to support this.

The air defence command and reporting system is a key element of RAAF planning for its Air Defence 2000 environment, including co-ordination of airborne early warning and control aircraft, along with data sourced from the Jindalee operational over the horizon radar system and the recently ordered Lockheed Martin TPS-117 air defence radars. The system will also be required to exchange data with the Australian air traffic control system.

The total air picture to be supported will cover about 25 million km2, and it will be closely integrated with the ADF's national command and control infrastructure through a yet to be developed Tactical Air Operations Centre and a planned Joint Force Air Operations Centre.

Source: Flight International