Defence ignores local solution for Battle Management System
Defence ignores Australian solution for
Battle Management System
By Kym Bergmann
October 4, 2022
The travails of the Australian Army’s tactical LAND 200 Battle Management
System are relatively well known, but the causes of – and solution to – the
problem remain unclear after they were first revealed 18 months ago. The
BMS was intended to be a vital element of modern digital combat
operations and was supplied by Israeli company Elbit after an international
competition. However, it was largely withdrawn from service early last year
with the capability only being partially replaced.
Since expenditure on the program has been well over $1bn since 2009,
there have been many attempts by the media and during Senate hearings
to get to the bottom of what is going on – all without success. Defence and
army have continued to deflect, saying that the system did not meet some
contractual milestones and an interim solution is in place. The latter is
being supplied by Danish company Systematic and connects various army
headquarters organisations and units through software that allows
command and control to occur.
Nevertheless, this is well short of the grand vision of being able to connect
all soldiers and vehicles through a seamless, secure tactical web in which
real time data is transferred in huge volumes. This is to enable things such
as third party targeting where, for example, a soldier aims their rifle at an
enemy vehicle and this image and associated information is sent in real
time to an Abrams main battle tank. The tank then fires without necessarily
being able to identify the target itself – and further iterations are possible
where the process is automated, reducing engagement times to
microseconds. This is how the parent system works in Israel, but for
Australia that remains a distant and so far, unachievable vision.
What we do know is that Army sent a recommendation to former defence
minister Peter Dutton in February this year – and it sat on his desk. It
appears that the paperwork is still awaiting a response from the new
Minister Richard Marles.
There is speculation that the true objective is just to run out the clock, with
Elbit’s current contract to support what little remains of their system
expiring in the first half of 2023.
Defence has always planned a further phase of LAND 200 to commence
next year and this is expected to receive government approval in the next
couple of months. Presumably this will be a tender to replace everything
acquired to date and add that expanded connectivity to all tactical vehicles
as well as to soldiers and command centres.
In the meantime, Defence has already been presented with an all-
Australian solution for their needs – but this has been set aside for reasons
that have more to do with the limits of bureaucratic process rather than
anything connected with price or technology.
A consortium known as C4EDGE led by Canberra-based EOS successfully
demonstrated all the elements of a next generation tactical BMS in
November last year – but despite the enthusiasm of local industry this
activity has fizzled out. C4EDGE is a group of more than 30 fully
Australian-owned companies with skills in all the necessary domains:
command and control software; secure communications with high grade
crypto; antenna design; displays; weapon control; image recognition – and
so on. For this they received more than $30m, which represented about
half the actual cost of developing the fielded system with industry picking
up the rest of the tab. This was an initiative that occurred at army’s request,
but because of the peculiarities of contracting meant that Defence had
visibility of what was being developed, but no formal input into the end
All of this work has been for naught, despite the initial positive response of
army users. This seems to be because the Australian procurement system
is heavily oriented to the purchase of an existing product – preferably from
a large overseas prime contractor – rather than a developmental solution
from local industry.
This approach is partially why LAND 200 encountered major problems in
the first place.
Article source: The Australian, 5/10/2022