Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

Tenix, Australia's largest homegrown defence company, is expected to announce the sale of its Hawker de Havilland (HdH) operation to Boeing this week, according to a senior Tenix source. BAE Systems Australia is meanwhile expected to reveal a scaling down of its operations after a slump in securing Australian Defence Force business.

Tenix bought Melbourne-based HdH in May 1998, and the sale suggests it has decided to move away from defence as a core activity. HdH, formerly part of the UK's BTR, specialises in the manufacture of components, repairs, upgrades and special modifications (including for Australia's Special Mission Lockheed Martin P-3Cs). Formerly, it had a significant manufacturing capability, and it continues to do some civil work for Boeing and Airbus.

The sale of HdH could see Tenix Defence Systems lose its position as Australia's largest private defence manufacturer, and further rationalisation seems likely. Tenex is contemplating a move into the oil and gas industry, and has shed nearly 400 staff in naval shipbuilding plus several managers in other defence operations.

In buying HdH, Boeing will bolster its Australian presence. This was on the wane with the winding down of its interest in ASTA, acquired when the US manufacturer purchased Rockwell. Boeing Australia is currently focused on upgrading Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing F/A-18s and supporting General Dynamics F-111s.

Boeing's civil outsourcing to HdH has been scaled back in the last few years - although some Australian sources suggest the takeover could be linked to the Seattle company's push to sell widebody aircraft to Qantas. Boeing declined to comment.

The restructuring of BAE Systems Australia, which has sites in Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Sydney, is also due to be unveiled this week. Plans approved in the UK mean BAE's Australian subsidiary, which employs 3,000 people, will scrap a $35 million investment in a new dynamics facility in Melbourne and close at least one of its two plants in western Sydney.

Its last major systems win, the RAAF's Lead-In Fighter project, was in 1996. It recently secured a $60 million garrison support contract, however. A freeze on RAAF spending includes the Boeing-supplied Wedgetail 737-based airborne early warning and control system, for which BAE was due to sign a contract.

Source: Flight International