Australian Technology Information (ATI) has scored a contract worth at least AU$50 million with Boeing, to design a data links system for aircraft communication -- and it may be the first of many for Aussie companies.
As well as designing and developing software to operate aircraft communications, the defence systems company will provide hardware and software support as a subcontractor to Boeing for the tactical digital communications of its F/A-18s in service with the RAAF.
The RAAF planes will now see their support move from a US-company to Australian one, making the Australian Defence Force more self reliant, and the support more economical according to ATI.
The data link communications software will provide pilots with a real-time tactical picture using information on the aircraft and its adversaries' position, according to Brian Mansell, Managing Director of ATI.
The information will be transmitted over UHF radio frequency or satellite.
Although the bandwidth for the communications is not large, the data transfer is extremely time critical, Mansell said: "It's not like the Internet where it can speed up and slow down with big packets and small packets."
"It's critical, because they use it to fire their weapons," he said.
The contract to develop the system will run over 10 to 15 years and is worth about AU$5 million to AU$7 million a year, Mansell said. The contract could also result in the creation of up to 30 new jobs, according to the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement's office.
ATI's win comes after the development of the Office of Australian Industry Capability (OAIC) in December which works with the Defence Materiel Organisation and Australian industry to help find bid opportunities for Australian companies within the Boeing supply chain as well as providing market assistance and mentoring to Australian suppliers.
The OAIC could potentially bring AU$100 million worth of contracts to Australian industry depending on how competitive the industry is, according to a spokesperson for the Secretary for Defence Procurement.
Although ATI says its relationship with Boeing spans 10 to 12 years, Mansell said that the OAIC's support will assist his company in gaining future work, and he believes the help will allow more Australian companies to enter the industry.