Defence industry momentum building in SA

Australia’s upgrade to the over-the-horizon radar will add to the amazing defence industry momentum building in South Australia.

The recent announcement from the Australian Government of the $1.2 billion contract to upgrade one of Australia’s major defence facilities is wonderful news for more than just successful bidders BAE Systems Australia and partners.

Having this major project centred in our state is great news for South Australia and its thriving defence sector, as well as for the future job prospects of young engineers, technologists and support professionals.

The contract is to upgrade the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN), an over-the-horizon radar network critical to safeguarding Australia. JORN protects Australia’s coastal approaches through a network of three remote radars in northern Australia. This remarkable system can see around the curvature of the earth – “over the horizon” – by bouncing radar transmissions (and their returns) off the ionosphere.

The upgrade will require more than 500 highly skilled technicians and engineers working for BAE Systems and their supply chain, with most based in South Australia.

The announcement is also good news for the University of Adelaide which has a distinguished history of research in defence over many decades and is Australia’s leading university in defence engagement with government and industry.

The University will play a key role in the future of JORN, working with BAE Systems and the defence sector on a variety of technological challenges. We’re proud to support this critical project for Australia through our research and provision of skilled graduates. A highlight of the University’s support for JORN is the incredible “Sapphire Clock”. In a $4M project, funded by both DST Group and the Australian Defence Forces, the University of Adelaide is transitioning the world’s most accurate clock from a laboratory instrument to one that can be used as a key component of the next-generation JORN.

A member of the original team that developed Australia’s over-the-horizon radar capability and retired DST Chief of Division, Bruce Ward, has recently been appointed Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide. He will continue to undertake ionospheric physics research that helps us maintain world leadership.

A little over a year ago we joined with BAE Systems, and the state’s other universities, in forming the Joint Open Innovation Network (JOIN). It was established to generate new technologies enabling the Australian Defence Force to maintain superior capability.

Through JOIN, BAE Systems committed to contribute up to $10 million for the creation of new defence-focused courses and targeted research and development, as well as scholarships and industry placements. JOIN will support 60 graduate positions and establish an Innovation Laboratory at the University of Adelaide to advance defence technologies.

The JOIN Innovation Laboratory will house over-the-horizon radar equipment, including digital receivers and operator consoles, and host PhD students working together with BAE Systems and University researchers.

The sapphire clock and JOIN are just two of many University of Adelaide-industry collaborations in defence – a deliberate move to align our activities with state needs. Our new, state government supported Australian Institute for Machine Learning is already attracting global partners to Adelaide.

As the nation’s defence state, South Australia will benefit enormously from federal investment in submarines, ships and defence infrastructure. It’s essential that this also generates new hi-tech companies and jobs pursuing “dual-use” technologies in areas such as advanced manufacturing, mining, big data and artificial intelligence.

This is not only about building our defence sector, it’s about creating high-value future-facing jobs that will keep our brilliant young people in South Australia.

The rapidly increasing defence momentum underway promises a very bright future for jobs in South Australia’s economy, and especially if we can truly leverage our opportunities.

By Professor Mike Brooks, Provost & Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Adelaide

Tagged in Collaborations,  research,  Winter 2018 and tagged defence industry,  JOIN,  JORN,  Professor Mike Brooks,  sapphire clock,  University of Adelaide, lumen