Event recap: my key takeaways from Hunter Defence Conference

By Raj Kutty on 30 August 2019

Raj Hunter Coference

I was lucky enough to attend the recent Hunter Defence Conference 2019 which was held at the Crowne Plaza in the Hunter region.

A huge thanks to Tim Owen and his team for running one of the best defence conferences I’ve been to in a very long time.

I’ve tried to capture some of the key themes we heard from the speakers. Happy reading!

Hon David Johnston

Former Senator the Hon David Johnston, Advocate for Australian Defence Exports

Trade licencing gives access to selling def products across the globe – licencing gives SMEs access to ministers and ambassadors who will promote their products across the globe

Export controls are crucial - we are responsible non proliferators

  • F35 is going to grow the hunter region significantly
  • Focus in the region is it grow our R&D capability and turn that into an export capability
  • Export finance available to support r& d / product sales abroad
  • Let’s not forget that our work is a matter of Life and death.

Dr Sheridan Kearnan

First Assistant Secretary Defence Industry Policy, Australian Government

  • The 2106 Defence focus was to make industry a fundamental input to capability and create a strong industrial base
  • Since 2016 we have strengthened ties with industry
  • It’s not all about NSW – e.g MILVECOE in QLD to support Land 400 PH2
  • We have broadened AIC program with aim of driving this program to smaller companies
  • DICP plans aim to develop 10 sovereign areas
  • We are in the process of developing three specific sovereign capability documents which will be released by end of year.
  • We have released $70m in grants
  • Defence Innovation Hub has been a good avenue to directly work with Defence – 90 innovation contracts have been executed worth $137m – $38m in NSW (3 in Hunter – including Blue Zone and Uni of Newcastle (cognitive resilience; support vets)
  • 84% of funds have gone into micro businesses
  • Next gen fund has partnered to deliver $120m to over 70 companies
  • Challenge is having the right workforce and we are working with the NSC to roll out a strategy and skills pathways.
  • National def industry skills office is being developed
  • In November we will undertake a def industry skills summit (industry and stakeholders)
  • The development of the CDIC is about helping companies support defence and get access
  • CDIC 174 grants / 74 facilities services
  • It has been 2.5 years since DIIP and whilst we can see benefits we are looking at ways to measure that outcome and the cumulative effect.

John Harvey

Defence Advocate, NSW Government

  • Minister Price met Varley and a number of other companies earlier this week
  • We have implemented the Defence Innovation Network (DIN) to support defence
  • We are in the process of Connecting NSC with TAFE NSW
  • Electricians can quickly retrain to Cisco routing and do 1st level support
  • We are facing issues such as Nowra has high level of unemployment but lots of open jobs
  • TAFE NSW will support skills dev and has connected with NSC and Tas Uni campus in Sydney
  • Pac 19 will have a function to correlate a number of companies and a skills focus
  • East coast sub-basing – on the cards hopefully!
  • Regional sustainment for JSF is currently 3% of global fleet – like to grow that to 10% of global support.

Leigh Gordon

Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG); General Manager Joint, Systems and Air; Program Manager, Joint Strike Fighter, Department of Defence

  • JSF is a US centric program
  • CASG mission is to partner with def industry to deliver JSF capability
  • CASG Focus is on delivering capability in an incrementally more complex environment
  • Drive FPR reform
  • Transform the workforce that we have to deliver the program
  • Implement white paper and policies, three key initiatives: -
  1. Deliver whole of life JSF
  2. Transform the way we work to accommodate this capability
  3. Deliver an industry benefit
  • Smart buyer concept implementation
  • Tech fighter SPO is undergoing large change – we will need to get more into the mindset of delivering capability through a commercial arrangement with a significantly reduced systems program office for F35
  • Our increased Focus on better governance will deliver better value for money
  • Strong Focus on Safety and hazards and look after our people – has to pervade the whole organisation
  • We have 2300 ADF in operational environments - we need to look after them!
  • From a scale perspective, $66m is being spent by CASG every day in Australia.

Professor Alex Zelinsky, AO

Vice-Chancellor; President, University of Newcastle

How do we bring universities together with companies and then export?

  • Attract multi nationals to Australia through strong R&D programs
  • NSW DIN is providing funds to grow small innovative businesses
  • Let’s remember that technologies such as GPS and the Internet all came from defence research
  • Boeing is a 2.6 bn company and has it’s 2nd largest presence in Aus - Developing research in Fisherman’s bend.
  • My Goal is to create a global R&D centre in the Hunter Region
  • We are top 8 for world automation
  • 56 of the 72 F35 aircraft will be in willy – 5500 jobs up for grabs across the country
  • New courses we implemented include a new bachelor of aero engineering
  • I2N – we want to spread our wings – create an inside out strategy. we want to get LM and BAE onto our campuses…
  • We want to base some of the subs here in Newcastle

LT COL Dave Barton

Lieutenant Colonel, Army Capability

On behalf of Major General Kathryn Toohey, AM, CSC; Head Land Capability, Australian Army

  • Land capability division
  • Purpose – sustain and modernise the land forces
  • 9 programs in priorities
  • 3 areas in particular:
  1. Integrated by design – simplifying systems (varley – hawkei)
  2. Emerging tech – autonomous/ ICT / advanced power – quantum tech cyber
  3. Sustainment costs - minimise and get value for money
  • Integration of technology is key
  • Digitalisation of Army

CMDR David Mann

Commodore, Royal Australian Navy

  • Hunter named after John Hunter – devoted his name to hunter class
  • Mission is fight and win at sea
  • 5 patrol boats out at any one time
  • Next 10 years – transition into New ships - new Hobart and Brisbane – 2nd DDG into service using Aegis and new radars/ CAE
  • Replacing our 2 tankers
  • Unmanned systems
  • 6 of 46 Taipans for navy
  • Romeo – MH60 – we have 24
  • Future fleet – Attack class sub/ Hunter class frigates / Arafura class /phantom/OPV
  • Hunter type 26 – Romeo and variable depth sonar
  • OPV - Arufura $3.5 bn first 2 in SA remaining in WA
  • Guided weapons program – replace harpoon/ evolved Sea Sparrow
  • Continued combat systems update and development
  • SAAB - Aegis – Aegis/Saab for DDG
  • Minehunter - replaced with unmanned systems

Future direction:

  • AI bots/data science focus supported by machines
  • Drone swarms
  • Vertical launching systems

Chris Deeble

Chief Executive, Northrop Grumman

  • The 2016 DIIP is the first time he has seen a fully costed Defence integrated plan.
  • It involves the recapitalisation of Army, Navy RAAF and our Joint Projects within a complex uncertain environment.
  • Delivering capability in this environment is tied to the security of a strong supply chain.
  • Australian Industry needs to drive cost efficiency. We integrate innovation by aligning policy, capability and value for money.
  • Our primes need to work differently – we need to disrupt the status quo. Commerce and collaboration are synonymous.
  • 25% of JSF support will happen in the Hunter region. Given the projects of BAE, NG AW&C we will need to look at success by innovating and collaborating.
By Kinexus' Director, Raj Kutty.

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