@AVNHQ Business Bulletin, 1 February 2021

By Leo D’Angelo Fisher

Top stories in @AVNHQ Business:

  • German-Australian partnership starts work on fourth offshore patrol vessel for RAN

  • Thales to supply mine and obstacle avoidance systems for Collins class subs

  • Harnessing technology to overcome combat challenges

German-Australian partnership starts work on fourth offshore patrol vessel for RAN


Shipbuilder Luerssen Australia and West Australian engineering company Civmec have commenced construction of the fourth of 12 offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the Royal Australian Navy’s SEA1180 Program in Henderson, WA.


Luerssen Australia, a subsidiary of German shipbuilder Lürssen, is the prime contractor and designer for the Arafura Class SEA1180 Program. The company is partnering with Civmec to build 10 OPVs. The first two OPVs are under construction by ASC Shipbuilding in Osborne, South Australia.


‘We are proud to be part of this nation’s shipbuilding capacity and to ensure that Luerssen design and technology can be married with the best of Australian industry capability.” says Luerssen Australia Chairman Tim Wagner.


Civmec Chairman James Fitzgerald has paid tribute to the “incredibly skilled workforce” involved in the SEA1180 Program.


Lürssen is a family-owned company headquartered in Bremen, Germany. It was founded in 1875. Lürssen started its Australian subsidiary, which operates from the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson in 2017.


Civmec is a construction and engineering company servicing the defence, marine, infrastructure, oil and gas, and metals and minerals sectors. The company was established in 2009 and has facilities in Henderson in WA, Tomago in the Hunter region of NSW and Gladstone in Queensland. In 2016, Civmec acquired NSW engineering and shipbuilding company Forgacs, including a purpose-built shipyard in Tomago, 14 kilometres from the Port of Newcastle.

Thales to supply mine and obstacle avoidance systems for Collins class subs


Thales Australia has signed a $23.7 million contract to deliver next-generation Mine and Obstacle Avoidance Sonar (MOAS) and High Frequency Intercept Array (HFIA) systems for the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines.


The Heron MOAS is an Australian designed and developed system and the result of more than 20 years of investment by Thales, the RAN and the Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Group.


Mine and obstacle avoidance capability is critical due to the rapidly evolving threat of mines and other navigational hazards in the shallow, poorly charted waters that are prevalent throughout Australia's maritime region.


The Heron system provides enhanced detection against dangers from small mine-like objects, reefs, shoals and hazardous objects such as displaced shipping containers.


The HFIA system will enhance the submarine’s ability to detect high-frequency emissions such as sonars and emerging undersea threats.


The new systems will achieve more than 80% Australian Industry Capability and will support 30 jobs at Thales’ Rydalmere site in western Sydney.

Harnessing technology to overcome combat challenges


The Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group believes integrating technology solutions into the soldier combat system can improve the “comfort, safety and effectiveness” of combatants.


DST Group, the Australian government's lead agency responsible for applying science and technology to Australia's defence and national security needs, has a dedicated team of defence scientists focused on providing an “integrated solution” to the challenges faced by “boots on the ground” combatants.


“Our Australian dismounted soldiers are totally reliant on what they wear or carry into battle and from a technology perspective their kit is incredibly complex,” research leader Tim Bussell explains.


“Technology on its own does not mean military capability because it has to work seamlessly with everything else so integration is the key.”


To fully assess the performance of new technologies and how well they integrate into the soldier combat system, researchers are turning to augmented reality.


A new facility in Melbourne will allow researchers to immerse a fully equipped soldier in a 360-degree virtual world. They will be able to link that soldier to a robotic test arena where they can command robots to undertake battlefield tasks in real time and real space in a controlled research environment.


The facility offers a flexible alternative to observing soldiers in the field, which is more expensive and time-consuming.


The research is part of the Enabled Soldier Program, a research collaboration with industry and academia aimed at progressing research and building capabilities for dismounted soldiers.


A Future Soldier Capability Network is being established to take relatively immature technologies and translate them into Australian-made military capabilities.


“Our motto is learn fast, decide early,” Bussell says.


“[T]hat’s what we try to do within the Enabled Soldier Program: to take risks, try out new ideas and concepts, learn what works quickly, accelerate the promising concepts if they work, but decide to move on early if an idea doesn’t pan out as we had hoped.”

Leo D'Angelo Fisher is a regular columnist and Editor-at-Large at Australian Veteran News. Connect with him on Twitter: @DAngeloFisher.