Shaping a New Build Platform for an Integratable Force: What is the Role Then for Suppliers?


By Robbin Laird

I have focused in recent months on the shaping of the integrated distributed force as the core outcome of shaping a sixth-generation force.

At the heart of being able to do so is to have C2/ISR systems operating on platforms which allow for synergy management, or the ability to provide for the connected tissue for platforms operating in an area of interest which can mix or match to work as an integrated force.

This means that if you are building a new platform which is being designed from the outset to be a player in this new world, then the nature of how to build out that capability is crucial.

A clear challenge is to shape the new platform’s integratable capabilities, both in terms of its ability to draw from the wider force and to contribute to it as well. 

And for the OPV team working in the Australian Department of Defence, the clear commitment is to work the combat, C2 and mission systems as an ongoing enterprise not just on a particular platform but force wide.

But what does it mean to be a supplier to such an effort in which the prime contractor is tasked to deliver ongoing capabilities and contribute those capabilities across the force, rather than to provide simply capabilities defined solely by a single platform?

Rather than a prime contractor working the integration of systems platform by platform, the Australian Department of Defence is working with a new model, one in which the prime contractor works with suppliers which will reach beyond the platform on which they are operating, for which the prime contractor is primarily responsible.

This is a whole new world, but one designed to achieve what Vice Admiral (Retired) Barrett calls a new approach to prime contracting.

“We see new shipyard capabilities and new industrial partnerships being forged to build a new approach to shipbuilding.

“It is being done with a new approach which is not just focusing on a traditional prime contractor method of building the hull and having the systems targeting that specific platform.

“It is about building a sovereign capability for our combat systems so that we can upgrade our systems onboard this class and all future classes of Australian ships.

“The OPV is providing some concrete manifestations of what we set out to do.

“It should be the marker for what follows in the continuous shipbuilding program.

A new approach provides new challenges and opportunities for the defense industry.

In the second part of this article, I will look at this new approach as being experienced by L3Harris Australia.