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Australia: 3 more projects back on track

Dec. 16, 2011 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Australia's Defense Department removed three major projects from its official list of contracts falling behind schedule or having cost overruns.

The announcement was made by the Minister for Defense Stephen Smith and Minister for Defense Materiel Jason Clare.

The projects now said to be on track include the Land 121 Phase 3B, a contract for Overlander replacement field vehicles, trailers and modules, and the Air 5418 Phase 1, a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.

Also back on track is the Joint 129 Phase 2 project for tactical unmanned aerial vehicles.

"This cuts the number of projects on the Projects of Concern List from 12 at the beginning of the year to six," their statement said.

"So far this year seven projects have been removed from the list, six through remediation and one through cancellation. One project has been added."

The Projects of Concern List and process was set up by the government in 2008 to focus the attention of senior defense ministry managers and major suppliers on fixing the problems.

Since 2008, 19 projects have been put on the list. Of those, 13 have been removed -- 11 were put back on track and two were canceled, the government said.

Land 121 Phase 3B was listed in 2008 because of rising technical, cost and schedule risks. There also was concern about the ability of the original preferred supplier to deliver against their offer, leading the government to retender the project last year.

The government announced this week that subject to the negotiation Rheinmetall MAN has been selected as the new preferred supplier and the contract was removed from the Projects of Concern List. Talks are under way with Rheinmetall MAN to provide up to 2,700 protected and unprotected medium and heavy vehicles.

Air 5418 Phase 1, approved in December 2005, was to acquire air-to-surface missiles for deployment on the air force's Classic Hornet jet fighters.

But the project was listed as a Project of Concern in November 2010 due to a failure by the Defense Department to keep the government properly informed about the project's progress.

"The lesson of this project is that Defense can't fail to keep government properly and fully informed about projects and their difficulties," the statement said.

In July, the missile was tested successfully at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia. In November the missile was released for service, certifying the JASSM for use on Australia's McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing, F/A-18 A/Bs fighters and the project is off the list.

The Joint 129 Phase 2 is for two Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle systems, first approved in 2005. Each system consists of five air vehicles, two ground control stations as well as associated support systems, logistics and training.

But the project was added to the Projects of Concern List in 2008 when the original contract to acquire TUAV systems from a commercial supplier was terminated because of technical issues and schedule delays.

Following cancellation of the original contract, in 2010 government approved the acquisition of two off-the-shelf Shadow 200 systems, made by AAI Corp., under a U.S. Foreign Military Sales arrangement.

The first of these has been delivered for use in Afghanistan, allowing the government to remove the project from the list, the statement said.

Six projects remain on the list. These include the Collins Class submarines, the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft and the lightweight torpedo replacement -- all put on the list in 2008.

Last year the Multi-role Tanker Transport aircraft with air-to-air refueling capability as well as the Electronic Support Measures upgrade for AP-3C Orion aircraft were added to the list.

The government moved its $4 billion contract with Australian Aerospace for 46 MRH90 helicopters to the list last month because the project was two years behind schedule. The six European-designed helicopters to replace Australia's outdated Sea Kings weren't ready for use, Smith said last month.

The MRH90 is a Eurocopter design and the aircraft were ordered to rationalize Australia's military helicopter fleet. They were to replace the Sea Kings and Blackhawks in the army and navy, The Canberra Times reported.

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