Australia’s ‘most ambitious’ military projects

Submarines, combat reconnaissance vehicles, F-35 fifth-generation stealth jets, and infantry fighting vehicles are among the major projects performed by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The indigenous Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS), which could be a game-changer in the near future, is now the country’s most ambitious military project. According to the Australian Defence Magazine, the JABMS, also known as the AIR-6500, is at the heart of future Integrated Air and Missile Defense capabilities.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s fifth-generation archway is built around the AIR 6500. Its purpose is to integrate all systems and sensors from all warfighting domains into a unified interface that can track threats, coordinate a coordinated reaction, and direct that response toward the target. The phrase “all sensor, finest shooter” is inscribed on it.

As previously reported by Airforce Technology, the Australian Department of Defense (DoD) selected Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for the AIR6500 Phase I project in August of last year.

Australia now relies on the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for surveillance, and one option for the next-generation OPIR satellites in development is to keep this dependency. Both of these systems are manufactured in the United States.

Canberra, however, could acquire its own early warning and monitoring capabilities shortly, thanks to the recent signing of the AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, and United States) pact and Australia’s rapidly growing space sector. According to National Interest, a new sovereign capability could provide the actual persistence needed to confront China’s developing agile, short-time-of-flight threats.

The establishment of such capacity should be the first step in the AIR 6500 project. Long-range ballistic and cruise missile systems, as well as hypersonic glide vehicles, should be easier to identify, track, and intercept using this technology.

As part of AIR6500 Phase 1, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will get a JBAMS, which will provide as the basis for future Integrated Air and Missile Defense capabilities. This will give the ADF better situational awareness and protection against increasingly sophisticated air and missile threats, as well as improved cooperation with partners.

The ultimate goal of Network Centric Warfare is to connect everything, which means connecting every person, platform, sensor, and weapon to the system and assigning them an IP address.

According to media reports, the three Australian services have been gradually improving their internal connections – with varied degrees of success – and now AIR-6500 has taken a critical step forward in the building of a fully integrated national system.

A sovereign capability with a persistent wide field of view would optimise coverage of possible missile threat arcs from the north, as well as the east and west coasts of Australia, for successful missile early warning.

“Certainly, the AIR 6500 is the cornerstone of the integrated air and missile defence capability,” said Christine Zeitz, Northrop Grumman’s General Manager for Asia Pacific. “It will be employed to offer theater-wide missile defence to the ADF.”

According to Zeitz, the technology originates from the US Army’s Integrated Air Missile Defense Battle Command System, which is at the heart of the US Army’s next-generation air and missile defence capability. This model is a ‘all sensor, greatest shooter’ model, to put it another way.

“There are a lot of people working on AIR 6500 right now, and the most of them are in Australia,” said Steve Froelich, programme executive for AIR 6500 at Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA).

“The US and Australian teams interchange information on a daily basis, but all of the work we’re contracted to do today is predominantly done in Australia.” We’re moving through seven risk reduction categories right now, which is really a maturing of the approach.”

For its AIR 6500 test system, LMA is investigating a wide range of technologies from throughout the industry. One of the contenders is a ‘Virtualized Aegis Weapons System,’ which employs a tactical cloud to ‘package Aegis into a virtual, expeditionary form,’ as Froelich defines it.

LMA held a roadshow around Australia and a virtual meeting with New Zealand’s defence industry, which resulted in the identification of 130 SMEs who potentially contribute to the Air 6500 solution in the future.

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