Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR 02 2015 Contents 70 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter FEB 2015
they can refine their plan up to the point of insertion.
Connectivity is more than the Air Force – we are
also looking at ways of working with Army and Navy
to make maximum use of what we are acquiring.
For Plan Jericho, I have a small, dedicated team
working on this, who will really become active
this year – including developing some capability
proposals to see what is possible.
Q: What are you going to do with all of the
data that can be collected from so many
A: The idea is to turn all of that into knowledge, so
that we become a really flexible, agile and adaptable
force – I think we can do that. However, there are
quite a few barriers to achieving that, which is why
the name Jericho and the symbolism of breaking
down walls was chosen. Some of those walls are
external to Air Force, but some are internal as well –
so we have plenty to think about.
Q: Is there a template that you can look at, for
example how the USAF operates?
A: I’m not sure that the USAF is applicable; possibly
more so with the US Marines. There is actually a lot
of technology in industry that we need to access
and a great deal of information is being shared with
us. We are already speaking with many technology
leaders, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop
Grumman and Boeing and others - who are putting
together ideas for what we can do.
It’s a bit like working on the Uber Taxi model –
seeing what can be done with rapid information
flows. There is a great deal of commercial
technology out there which we can – and do –
incorporate into our activities.
Q: Speaking of the commercial sector, you
have previously been critical of the relatively
slow pace of the military decision making
process and how that can be incompatible
with very rapid technological change. How do
you view the situation?
A: I think the First Principles review currently
underway into how Defence operates is a good
start. I’m hopeful it will allow us to make progress.
But I have to say that the issues you mention
are not exclusive to Defence – when you look at
Government processes as a whole they are set up
in a very industrial, sequential way to allow decisions
to be made.
However, to take four or five years to make
decisions is no longer a defendable way of doing
things. Certainly there needs to be a process to
make sure that correct decisions are being made,
but it is essential to be able to move quickly and
adapt quickly. A good example is Wedgetail,
where we decided it needed a chat system. The
team working on that managed to turn it around in
three weeks – so it can be done. There are many
possibilities, but studying things for five or ten years
is no longer a practical option.
Q: Part of the problem seems to be that
tender documents continue to define solutions
down to the last nut and bolt.
A: Yes – there has to be more flexibility to adapt
and accept rapidly changing technology, because
otherwise developmental timeframes are so short
you can end up with an out of date product even
before it enters service. Systems like Wedgetail
actually require a cycle of updates to maximise their
capabilities as we go forward. The plan is for that to
be done every two years. Hornet software is similarly
updated every second year – so we don’t need
approval processes that take three to five years.
I’m not at all a lone voice in all of this – there is
a general realisation that we need to change. Nor
is Australia the only country that has to grapple
with this issue – it is a common problem in the
western world and if you speak with anyone from
the United States or the UK it is clear that concerns
are widespread. During the last 15 to 20 years it
seems that militaries have started to fall behind
the commercial sector in the development of new
technologies – and now we risk being left behind.
Q: Is it possible to speed up processes
without increasing risk – especially an
environment when Governments don’t like
projects that fail?
A: That's something we have to grapple with. For
me a classic case is the C-17A Globemaster, which
in the early 1990s was almost cancelled for various
reasons – and yet it has turned out to be one of
the world’s most successful airlifters. If I look at the
two projects that gave us our biggest headaches
– Wedgetail and KC-30A – it is clear that they
are now outstanding successes. Even two years
ago I was still worried about the KC-30A tanker;
four or five years ago I was certainly worried about
Wedgetail – but history shows that you can work
through these issues.
Q: A final area to explore: inhabited versus
uninhabited systems – a topic on which you
have spoken a few times. Looking at AIR
7000, how is the balance shaping up for that
A: The numbers we are looking at now for those
long-range surveillance tasks are probably twelve
to fifteen P-8A Posidons and seven Tritons as the
best possible mix. Maritime patrol is like airlift –
you can never have enough of it. The capability
we have is often fully utilised, as recent events
such as the tragic losses of the Air Asia flight
on its way to Singapore or the earlier search for
missing MH-370 – or the interception of Russian
fleets as they sail down the east coast - have very
clearly shown. The nature of our geography means
that we need to be aware of what is happening
over and on a very large part of the Earth’s
The diverse nature and number of taskings
for maritime patrol assets is amazingly large and
if Triton were available tomorrow, I would be
acquiring it in a heartbeat. However, the reality
is that it is still under development – but once
we acquire that capability we will be able to
undertake tasks well beyond the range of what
we can manage with the AP-3Cs. The Tritons will
be used to optimise the use of the future P-8As
– which will always be needed because you need
a response option. We will always need a mix of
manned and unmanned.
I’m also a fan of having a medium altitude UAS,
currently in the form of our Herons, but could in
the future be the Reaper, or something similar.
I don’t think many people know just how much
use was made of our Herons in Afghanistan.
Even when all other people and platforms were
withdrawing during the last 12 months, the
Herons remained because they were of such
critical value to coalition operations in the south
of the country.
Q: Finally, what’s coming up for 2015?
A: In the very near future we have the Avalon
Airshow. There are a couple of projects where we
need to really start moving, such as AIR 5428, which
needs to be pushed through the system. For some
reason training programs move slowly. Historically 25
years ago even the Macchi jet trainer replacement
program took some time to sort out.
The other area is very much about people and
processes as we get into the detail of Plan Jericho.
29/01/15 7:35 PM
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