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Australia joins New Zealand, UK in picking Babcock for HF communications project

Babcock Australia HF Comms contract
Illustration: Australian defense ministry file photo of a high frequency antenna array near Woomera, South Australia.

The Australian defense ministry has signed a contract with Babcock to equip the military with an enhanced high-frequency communications system.

The contract, which follows the announcement of Babcock’s selection as preferred partner in July 2022, is worth AU$877 million (US$557M) over 10 years. It will see the company lead the operation and support of Australia’s existing HF capability, while delivering a technology upgrade program.

Starting in October 2023 under the Joint Project 9101 – Enhanced Defence High Frequency Communications System program, the new system will provide Australian and allied armed forces with the ability to securely communicate using voice and other data from almost any location across the globe.

Through this agreement, Australia will join the New Zealand and United Kingdom in selecting Babcock as their partner in the engineering, operation and support of long range, resilient strategic HF communications.

Minister for defense industry Pat Conroy said the government would invest $1.96 billion dollars to upgrade communications equipment and facilities across Australia, build a new communication site near Darwin, and establish a software development center in Adelaide.

“In partnership with Babcock Pty Ltd, Defence will grow and strengthen Australian industry’s high-frequency communications capacity, further developing workforce skills, knowledge and expertise that are central to delivering this leading-edge capability,” Minister Conroy said.

“This will complement Defence’s investment in secure and resilient satellite communications to support our soldiers, sailors and aviators on operations at home and abroad.

Babcock’s principal partner for the program, Lockheed Martin Australia, will support in the delivery of mission system elements that will grow a sovereign industrial capability solution to provide through life support over the duration of the program and beyond.

“In a modern threat environment, access to local communication infrastructure or satellite communication cannot be assured. Having a communications capability that can work seamlessly with the Australian Defence Force and its allies is essential,” Babcock CEO David Lockwood said.

At the heart of the solution is Babcock’s Intelligent Network and Serial Protocol Interface for Radio Equipment (INSPIRE). According to the company, INSPIRE provides a step-change in ease of upgrade and re-configuration.