Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

Marconi Electronic Systems is to forgo payments of at least $A50 million ($32 million) for work on the development of Australia's Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). A new agreement will transfer the completion of all software tasks on the project to the Australian-based RLM company, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Tenix Defence Systems.

The agreement, finalised on 22 January, is also understood to free Marconi of any liability for expected damages claims to be made by the Australian Department of Defence against RLM and project prime contractor Telstra for late delivery.

Australian Department of Defence officials have confirmed that subcontractor arrangements have been renegotiated, including a transfer of responsibility for the integration and testing of the UK-developed software modules for the over-the-horizon air defence radar system.

According to Air Cdr Dick Hedges, director of high frequency projects with the Australian Department of Defence, "-clearly, de-scoping the Marconi contract means a reduction in the value of the subcontract.

"I can say that the [Marconi] subcontract is worth $A410 million, and that has been reduced considerably".

A management team from RLM is stationed at Marconi's Chelmsford plant to evaluate the development status of JORN software modules, with this work to be transferred to the project's system integration facility in Melbourne, Australia, in the near future. The 22 January agreement will also see 44 Marconi engineers transferred to Australia to work under RLM's direction.

The deal reduces future Marconi involvement in the radar project to the provision of integrated logistics support for system hardware which has already been delivered, as well as a limited role in the remaining hardware installation tasks.

Marconi was originally contracted by Telstra to undertake the design and development of the radar surveillance segment, including the radar transmit and receive system, the frequency management system, command and control systems, and all associated hardware and software.

Marconi was required to finalise software deliveries and to complete its hardware integration tasks by the middle of this year. RLM moves to take over the work began in November last year, after it became apparent that Marconi would not be able to meet that deadline.

Marconi's role in the A$1.1 billion project was criticised in March 1998 by the Australian Parliament Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit report. The report says that Marconi's "-inability to deliver transmitters and receivers and associated drivers to quality, performance and time requirements had a critical impact on the project's cost and schedule".

Source: Flight International