Australia is to formally include interoperability with the USA as a selection criteria in its future military hardware acquisitions.

The new policy follows a high-level review of concepts of operations, existing military hardware and developing requirements conducted by the Australian Defence Department's capability development group.

It also follows increasing moves by both countries to formally link current development requirements in a variety of areas. These include airborne maritime surveillance requirements and more recently an offer for Australia to join the US wideband gap filler satellite programme, a decision on which is due during October.

Chief of the capability development group Lt Gen David Hurley says that the studies were supported by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, with detailed work starting last year.

Hurley ways the studies examined "how interoperable we are and how interoperable we want to be. We developed three concepts of operations based on classified scenarios, looked at where all the levels of interoperability are and assessed where we stand in both countries in terms of those interoperabilities, from systems level down to platforms, communications and so forth. We were about 75% interoperable, with 25% still an area we need to work."

The bulk of this area covers data sharing, or what Hurley calls "the bits and the bytes".

Australia will implement the policy at the earliest possible levels of its requirements development process: "The top end of this us that in each of our two capability decision-making systems we are going to put questions about interoperability, coalition interoperability, right into the front end of the decision-making process.

"So from very early days when you are thinking about new capability from the Australian and the US perspective, it is what does each other need to know about this new initiative? The idea is that if we can identify that early, access to technology and data will be identified early and hopefully we will get more push from the USA to offer this to us rather than us banging on the door and trying to extract it. If we can achieve that it will be a great step forward for both countries."

  • Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orions operating in the Middle East have been upgraded with the Tactical Common Data Link, providing ground commanders with real-time imagery. The service now operates two Orions in the region. The Tactical Common Data Link is being progressively fitted to the fleet in conjunction with Tenix Defence and Australian Aerospace as part of the RAAF's AP-3C Capability Assurance Programme. This also includes upgrades to the aircraft's electro-optic capabilities, data management and mission systems.

Source: Flight International