Thales Australia wins ship SATCOM contract

May 27, 2010 at 8:54 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, May 27 (UPI) -- Australia has chosen Thales Australia as the preferred supplier for $7.5 million worth of satellite communications equipment for Hobart Class destroyers under construction.

Minister for Defense Materiel and Science Greg Combet made the announcement for SATCOM equipment on behalf of the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance.

The AWD comprises the government's project management agency Defense Materiel Organization, the Australian-owned prime contractor ASC, formerly known as the Australian Submarine Corporation, and Raytheon.

"The AWD will go to sea with a communications system that will not only meet the operational needs of a modern warship but also allows the ship's crew to keep in touch with family and friends via e-mail and Internet services," Combet said.

"Satellite communications are key to the operation of the AWDs. This system will provide worldwide coverage of high-speed broadband for multiple users for both voice and data services. The system also includes equipment critical to meeting safety at sea obligations."

The AWD system uses equipment from several SATCOM suppliers including ViaSat, SITEP and Thrane & Thrane. Some of the equipment is already deployed on Australian navy ships. Commonality of equipment will improve efficiencies of training and maintenance, Combet said.

The Hobart class of destroyers, known during their planning phase as the Australian Air Warfare Destroyer or SEA 4000, includes three ships. The 7,000-ton HMAS Hobart is the first and is to be delivered in December 2014. The other ships in the $2.5 billion program are the Brisbane and Sydney to be in service by 2017.

The Hobart class is a derivation of the Spanish firm Navantia's F105 design with 70 percent of construction work subcontracted to BAE Systems Australia and the FORGACS Group.

Thales Australia will design and make the SATCOM equipment at its Garden Island site in Sydney. Installation and integration with AWD systems will be at the recently upgraded Techport Australia facility at Osborne, an industrial suburb of Adelaide.

It was the awarding of the ship design work to Navantia in June 2007 that stimulated the government of South Australia to invest more than $248 million to improve the state-owned Techport facility.

South Australia's government also invested $26 million in a new AWD Systems Center at Techport to accommodate defense and industry companies working on the AWD project. AWD Systems Center was established in 2005 in Felixstow, another Adelaide suburb, but moved to Techport last year.

The facility's first priority remains for the AWD but in April Techport officially opened for commercial operations and took in its first paying customer. "This marks the beginning of our state's commercial shipbuilding, maintenance and service industry," South Australia Premier Mike Rann said at the time.

Techport Australia's ship-lift, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is capable of lifting 9,300-ton ships out of the water, the state government said. Its first lift, on opening day, was a local pilot tug from international towage company SVITZER.

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