Canberra boosts defense sector cooperation

Nov. 11, 2011 at 6:09 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- A dozen Australian companies, including Elbit Systems and Frazer-Nash Consultancy, have joined the Defense Department's Rapid Prototyping, Development and Evaluation Program.

The RPDE program is an agreement by 220 businesses, research organizations and universities to work together when asked by the government to solve particularly complex and high-risk problems within defense projects.

The other new organizations are Pilatus Australia, Artis Group, Cocoon Data, Eggler Consulting Engineers, Etherstack, Orbital8, RPC Technologies and ZBOB Engineering.

The University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University also joined.

To date, 100 projects have been worked on by groups within the RPDE, which was set up in 2004. By 2005, it had 67 participants.

Current tasks include integrating IP chat on the Boeing Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft recently delivered to Australia.

"The work they're doing is saving taxpayers' money and making sure our soldiers, sailors and aircrew have got the capability they need to do their job," Minister for Defense Materiel Jason Clare said.

Past work includes solving problems with the Electronic Interference Remediation project for Anzac Class Frigates, which has improved communications and safety for naval personnel.

RPDE work also helped fast-track sensor-based training for fighter pilots so they are ready for the arrival of the new Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

Around $50,000 a day in fuel costs has been saved through better energy management, thanks to work by the RPDE, Clare said. "These are terrific examples of what can be done when defense draws on the expertise in Australian industry and academic institutions."

The strategy is to have member businesses and organizations "join in a neutral, non-competitive environment, knowing that intellectual property and commercial interests are protected," a Defense Department statement said.

RPDE work relies on 11 lead members, which are large defense businesses: ASC, Australian Aerospace, CEA Technologies, BAE Systems Australia, Boeing Defense Australia, IBM, Thales, Saab, Raytheon, QinetiQ and Lockheed Martin Australia Electronic Systems.

They work with the "associate" small-to-medium sized specialist businesses and academic institutions.

The RPDE Strategic Plan 2011-2013 says RPDE has two "products" -- a "quicklook" and a "task" that the government can choose, depending on the problem to solve.

A quicklook gives advice and input on a problem by rapidly bringing together RPDE members and associates. This takes normally three months to complete.

More difficult or higher risk problems require a task that delivers a prototype solution. This is more hands-on, direct work on solving the problem and "can involve the introduction of new organizations, concepts and technologies," the Strategic Plan says. A task can take 12-18 months from start to finish.

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