Michael Lenton, executive chairman of Selex ES Australia, has signalled some key opportunities for the Australian defence industry, warning however “we have to be as nimble … as we can to bring our solutions … to the customer as quickly as we can, and be adaptive and able to really respond to their needs”.
Selex ES was a subsidiary of Finmeccanica (today’s Leonardo), a company based in Italy and the UK, which was active in the electronics and information technology business. From 1 January 2016, the activities of Selex ES merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s electronics, defence and security systems sector.
In particular, Selex ES’s activities have been organised in three divisions within the sector: airborne and space systems, land and naval defence electronics, and security and information systems.
Speaking to Defence Connect at the 2017 Pacific International Maritime Conference in Sydney, Lenton said he was seeing a lot of disruption in the Australian Defence market at present.
“The opportunities that this period for Australian Defence is offering are extraordinary,” he said. “[However] I think we have to be as nimble and as quick as we can.”
Lenton said that it was key to remember that, after all, meeting the customer’s requirements was where it all started.
“I mean that's where we get our relevance from; being credible in what we can offer, and how we can adapt to provide them with it,” he said.
Lenton also noted how the firm – now part of Leonardo – had undergone a huge shift into other key areas since first having been focused largely on airborne.
“We're now in naval and there have been a number of other events like the police technology event that we were present at,” he added. “So it just gives me the sense of how wide our offering is as Leonardo Australia for the kind of products and needs that are in Australia for security related matters.”
In terms of the activities of Selex within the Australian market, Lenton highlighted that, in fact, the firm had been operating in the region since the 19th century, when it traded in torpedoes.
“Actually, it's interesting because we offered, or we supplied torpedoes into Australia as far back as 1885, and these torpedoes were supplied by a company that we now own, which was called White Head Torpedoes,” Lenton said.
“It was set up by the inventor in fact of the torpedo, the modern torpedo,” said Lenton. “He was an Englishmen called Robert Whitehead, and this fellow was living in Trieste, Italy, and set up the operation there. But Trieste at that time was part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, and when he died in 1905 he left the whole operation to his granddaughter.”
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