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Why data will break through the next frontier of modern defence

Anthony Read from IFS APJ & MEA explains why defence leaders must embrace the next frontier of modern defence by leveraging intelligent data. 

Anthony Read from IFS APJ & MEA explains why defence leaders must embrace the next frontier of modern defence by leveraging intelligent data. 

It’s hard to imagine that Apache helicopters used by the US Army during the Gulf War required an astonishing 28 maintenance hours for each flying hour to keep them operational.

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Technicians would often create maintenance procedures on-the-fly, and the unprecedented need for new parts just to keep them active became so dire that units would often strip other helicopters for parts, and even source them from local private firms in the area.

Fast forward to today – and defence organisations are beginning to embrace the role of technology and intelligent data, allowing for full visibility and predictive maintenance across their entire fleet. This ensures that assets spend more time in operation and less time in shipyards or on the hangar floor.

It’s clear that much like private enterprise, defence organisations must embrace the rapid modernisation of IT systems and build a digital backbone to ensure military readiness and informed military decision-making.

Locally, we are already seeing this in practice – with last year’s announcement of Australia’s largest defence prime contractor ASC incorporating IFS’ ERP solutions as part of their transition to a digital shipyard, creating operational agility and efficiencies for the Royal Australian Navy in their fleet maintenance.

But with our region facing uncertainty due to recent developments in the South Pacific, it’s clear that data and unified digital infrastructures will play an important role for our military organisations in preparing for both today and tomorrow.

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A “Total Asset Readiness” snapshot, made possible through consolidated intelligent data, provides commanders with real-time visibility of their entire asset class at their immediate disposal in preparing for mobilisation. Furthermore, digital-twin data modelling systems, underpinned by AI-powered data insights, can help with maintenance planning and asset readiness that can plan for previously unforeseen supply chain issues.

But looking beyond, it’s also clear that modern warfare is entering a new frontier of unmanned systems that help remove human soldiers from harm’s way. Enter military drones – the influx of which raises new questions on how military organisations will maintain these assets as their operational importance grows.

The scope for maintenance for an unmanned aerial system (UAS), for example, includes the air vehicle (AV), the ground control station, launch and recovery equipment (often including take-off and landing systems) and all communications equipment involved in receiving data from the AV and its payload during flight. How military organisations structure maintenance support will require complete visibility to ensure every function is operating optimally across the entire system.

With the recent investment by the Australian government to the tune of $454 million to its Loyal Wingman program that will deliver seven MQ-28A Ghost Bat drones, it’s clear that UAS will become a major asset in intelligence-finding and reconnaissance. But it’s also clear that the innovation in the air will require innovation behind the scenes to fulfill its vast potential.

Sophisticated, forward-thinking technologies are rapidly progressing from a nice-to-have to a must-need item to support the requirements of complex logistics and supply chains that maintain these highly detailed, and crucially important assets.

While we see the role of intelligent data systems and a cloud-based unified IT infrastructure replace multiple legacy maintenance systems across the private sector across a wide array of industries, military organisations must embrace the next frontier of maintenance innovation to support the next frontier of modern defence.

So, as we enter the next frontier of modern defence, will our military organisations recognise the importance of intelligent data in supporting their operational procedures?

Anthony Read is the vice president of aerospace and defence at IFS APJ & MEA.

Why data will break through the next frontier of modern defence
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