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Defence procurement bungles and wins

The Defence Department's acknowledgement that the AUKUS submarine deal is going to cost us $5B in payments to France before we even put a down payment on our new submarines got me thinking about how much of our defence budget is wasted on poor contract management and inappropriate purchases.

The Defence Minister recently announced that the MRH-90 Taipan multi-role helicopters were to be replaced by Sikorsky Black Hawks and Sea Hawks after the Taipans were found to be unable to perform the roles they were purchased for.  In fact, the Taipans were purchased to replace our Black Hawks and Sea Hawks.  In other words, we are replacing the Taipans with the helicopters they were intended to replace!

It was previously announced that our Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters were not fit for purpose and will be replaced with Boeing Apache Guardians, a helicopter that was in service before we chose the Tiger.

A significant part of our defence budget is going to the acquisition of F-35 Lightning multi-role, supersonic, stealth fighters.  They may well be the real deal but we forked out a lot of money to help with development.  On top of that, the F-35B version has vertical take off and landing ability and would be be a significant force advantage if deployed on our Landing Helicopter Dock ships.

Back on land, the Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle has been purchased even if it can only meet one of the Army's requirements for offensive firepower and anti-missile capability.  Then there's the Hawkei tactical vehicle that's currently withdrawn from service because the brakes don't work.

Of course, there have been some excellent military equipment purchases in the recent past but shouldn't we expect that all of our defence expenditure produces material that's fit for purpose and is state of the art?
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”  Oddball

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #1
Government departments make stupid finance decisions all the time.

They almost spend for the sake of it.
"everything you know is wrong"

Paul Hewson

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #2
Government departments make stupid finance decisions all the time.

They almost spend for the sake of it.

They also make excellent decisions and get more bangs for their bucks.

Sticking with Defence, the decision to purchase M113 armoured personnel carriers can’t be faulted and the same can be said for the last three generations of tanks, the Bushmaster PMVs, Landrovers, Unimogs, patrol boats, destroyers, frigates, Hornets, F111s, Hueys, etc.

Problems seem to arise when we’re after something off the drawing board or want to modify an existing design to suit a real or imagined requirement.
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”  Oddball

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #3
These are panels made up of military personal and bureaucrats they are not primarily political decisions, and the noise often comes from those who fails to win the tender.

No one solution is perfect, and most decisions come with compromise.
The Force Awakens!

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #4
They also make excellent decisions and get more bangs for their bucks.

Sticking with Defence, the decision to purchase M113 armoured personnel carriers can’t be faulted and the same can be said for the last three generations of tanks, the Bushmaster PMVs, Landrovers, Unimogs, patrol boats, destroyers, frigates, Hornets, F111s, Hueys, etc.

Problems seem to arise when we’re after something off the drawing board or want to modify an existing design to suit a real or imagined requirement.

I agreed with you.

They waste money.

Now which is it. Do they do it well or don't they?
"everything you know is wrong"

Paul Hewson

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #5
They also make excellent decisions and get more bangs for their bucks.

Sticking with Defence, the decision to purchase M113 armoured personnel carriers can’t be faulted and the same can be said for the last three generations of tanks, the Bushmaster PMVs, Landrovers, Unimogs, patrol boats, destroyers, frigates, Hornets, F111s, Hueys, etc.

Problems seem to arise when we’re after something off the drawing board or want to modify an existing design to suit a real or imagined requirement.

Totally agree, David. In fact there is much about the Aussie -- with limited resources and small population -- military that is deeply admired by other nations, even setting examples. This reputation has been built over many, many decades under both major political parties.
Only our ruthless best, from Board to bootstudders will get us no. 17

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #6
Australia is already well down the track to having a hypersonic weapons platform by accident, having spent many years in collaboration with NASA on space planes / launch platforms with transonic / hypersonic capability. I suspect that AUKUS see this as potentially a hypersonic cruise capable missile as apparently many problems of transitioning between subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic flight have already been addressed by the research, math done now it's an engineering gig.

One has to wonder what the researchers will think when AUKUS hijacks the existing research and turns it into another weapons project. It's going to be bitter sweet for some, they'll get the funding they wish they had always had, but it won't necessarily translate to the new hypersonic public access transport system they had hoped for!

Of course the next step might well be a hypersonic weapons or surveillance platform.

A lot of it will go dark, blacker than my heart! :o

For those interested in some of the background, it's a project between UoQ and NASA, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20161117-australias-hypersonic-spaceplane-for-a-new-space-race

Oddly enough, I've worked with some of these people in the past, it turns out that R&D into additive manufacturing via kinetic spray requires the design of de Laval spray nozzles that just so happen to be ideal starting point for scramjets and hypersonic propulsion. I can tell you they won't be happy if the research gets restricted.
The Force Awakens!

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #7
I agreed with you.

They waste money.

Now which is it. Do they do it well or don't they?

That's the quandary Thry; our defence purchases are often state of the art, fit for purpose and good value.  Then there are the purchases that have cost blow-outs and land the troops with gear that's not up to the job.  How do we get it so right ... and so wrong?
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”  Oddball

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #8
On The Project, it was claimed that the armed UAV program has been dumped. Bad timing, given that drones have proven very effective in Ukraine against the Russians. In the event of a hostile amphibious invasion taking advantage of remote coastline areas, you'd think UAVs would be very effective in disrupting advances on populated areas. And they'd be a lot cheaper than F35s.

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #9
In the event of a hostile amphibious invasion taking advantage of remote coastline areas, you'd think UAVs would be very effective in disrupting advances on populated areas. And they'd be a lot cheaper than F35s.
It's interesting, they are certainly effective, but maybe not as cheap as people think. A military grade drone, one that is comms secure and hardened against hacking, EMP, laser, etc., etc., can cost million$ For every F35 there would be dozens or even hundreds of drones required to do the same job, modern fighter aircraft are really a platform, so a simple comparison is not really valid.

Also, I note that launching drones is not simple either, not from the technical perspective but from a tactical perspective, the smaller drones do not have ranges measured in thousands of kilometres. As you launch a drone it comes up on / over the horizon as a bright RF source, launch too many from one location and it's like putting a pin on the map for your enemy to reference. So generally they have to be transported and launched from diverse locations.
The Force Awakens!

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #10
UAVs operate in tandem with aircraft. If the other side dominates the air, then drones would be picked off pretty quickly. That's the remarkable thing about the Ukraine war: everybody assumed the Russians would quickly dominate the airspace but Ukraine's fighter pilots and missile defence systems have ensured the Russian fighters are occupied with other threats.

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #11
I believe one of the main reasons for the F35 being favoured is it's ability to remain stealthy while dynamically acting as a mobile CAP Command Centre for dozens or even hundreds of drones. But these smaller drones still have to be launched within range of a target, in Ukraine that might be OK but keep in mind Ukraine is smaller than NSW. (For those confused by this when looking at a map, keep in mind the normal map projections are neither linear or to scale for some places look smaller while others look bigger.)

I'm very anti-foreign ownership of air fields in WA and NT, simply because just one large air transport can land and launch dozens of hundreds of drones in minutes and cripple air superiority over that area in just minutes.
The Force Awakens!

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #12
On The Project, it was claimed that the armed UAV program has been dumped. Bad timing, given that drones have proven very effective in Ukraine against the Russians. In the event of a hostile amphibious invasion taking advantage of remote coastline areas, you'd think UAVs would be very effective in disrupting advances on populated areas. And they'd be a lot cheaper than F35s.

Which armed UAV program?

We have the Triton UAS (based on the Global Hawk) that, with the P-8A Poseidon, replaced the venerable Orions (based on the 1950s Lockheed Electra turbo-prop airliner) in the maritime surveillance and anti-shipping role.

The MQ-28A "Loyal Wingman" (they could have called it David Glascott), now known as Ghost Bat, is the Super-Hornet, F-35 force extender.  Its new name was recently announced at a naming ceremony at RAAF Amberley and the aircraft has now completed three test flights.  I suspect that it would cost us a packet if we were to pull out of the joint design/construction project with Boeing ... but it is defence procurement.
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”  Oddball

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #13
The MQ-28A "Loyal Wingman" (they could have called it David Glascott), now known as Ghost Bat, is the Super-Hornet, F-35 force extender.  Its new name was recently announced at a naming ceremony at RAAF Amberley and the aircraft has now completed three test flights.  I suspect that it would cost us a packet if we were to pull out of the joint design/construction project with Boeing ... but it is defence procurement.
Although Loyal Wingman is a drone, it important to highlight it is not what people think of when they talk about drones, it's basically a 2/3rds scale pilotless fighter jet / robotic wingman costing $20M a piece. Cheaper than a fighter jet and no human life is at risk and it is not constrained by human flight limits. It really is what an associate described as the F35's angel.

FYI;
F35 = 15m long
LW = 11m long

Most people think about smaller sized gadgets launched of a tank or some other mobile armament, and these smaller gadgets are the devices having the major impact in Ukraine.


The Force Awakens!

Re: Defence procurement bungles and wins

Reply #14
Yes, the unmanned aircraft used by the major powers are a little different to the drones that folk use for aerial photography.  The Australian Army's UAVs are small recce/surveillance aircraft without an offensive capacity but it would be relatively simple to modify  UAVs like that to carry explosives.

The Global Hawk is probably the most famous unmanned aircraft system and it is 14.5m long with a wingspan of 40m.  Even at that size, its payload is limited to 910kg (the Super Hornet's payload is 8,000kg).  The "flyaway" price of a Global Hawk was $130M in 2013.  We have eight Triton UAS and, as they are modified for maritime surveillance, I suspect that they are a little more expensive than your standard Global Hawk.
“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”  Oddball