The United States Navy’s air systems command (NAVAIR) is delaying the release of tenders for its broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) unmanned air system requirement until mid-February to enable modification of bid documents to meet unique Australian requirements for the system.
Australia formally signed a project agreement to participate in the BAMS system development and demonstration phase on 13 January.
NAVAIR is advising contenders that the likely delay is intended to allow the request for proposal to be modified to meet “USN requirements as well as options to address unique Australian objectives”.
Those changes will include modifications to the BAMS performance based specification with an updated draft expected to be released late this month to allow for industry comment ahead of formal tender release.
The Australian-specific requirements focus on the development of the Australian integrated ground environment and ground support system, a role which is expected to be carried out by an Australian based company but with both USN and BAMS prime contractor inputs.
The Australian requirements will also include requests for alternative sensors capable of supporting combined wide area land and maritime surveillance, electronic intelligence systems, and an alternative communications architecture.
Australian Department of Defence officials were unavailable for comment on the project linkages due to national public holidays.
NAVAIR had been working on releasing the BAMS tender by 31 January.
Australian industry officials say they anticipate any delay to the US programme will cause a reciprocal delay in the Australian DoD’s planned release of a tender for a local industry partner to integrate BAMS into the Australian defence force’s command, control and intelligence architecture. That tender is currently due to be released mid-February and close 4 April.
Australian tender drafts released late December indicate bidders will be required to maintain their bid validity for a period of up to two years before a contract is finalised. Contenders for the Australian requirement include BAE Systems Australia, Boeing Australia, Saab Systems, Tenix Defence Systems and Thales Australia.
The General Atomics MQ-9 Predator B Reaper is one contender, for BAMS along with the Northrop Grumman RQ-4A/B Global Hawk
Australia announced mid-2006 that it was linking its Air 7000 Phase 1B endurance UAV requirements to BAMS with the objectives of reducing acquisition overheads and providing opportunities for increased interoperability with the US in conducting maritime surveillance operations.
NAVAIR is currently advising BAMS contenders that “formal agreement to proceed with SDD cooperative development activities involving Australia is not anticipated until after the BAMS unmanned air system selection decision”.