Exec tips SMEs on how to crack prime supply chain

Diversity of access to top-flight defence sector capabilities is key to SMEs hoping to gain access to primes’ supply chains, according to one senior industry executive.

Speaking to Defence Connect, BAE Systems aerospace director Steven Drury said joining the prime supply chain required focus and commitment but was not an impossible nut to crack for SMEs, particularly those with a long-term focus on delivering value and a proven track record.

Australia has been selected to undertake key component repair assignments for the Pacific region from 2025 for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). It has also secured an important role in global repairs.

BAE Systems Australia will be the lead provider of global sustainment services for life support components of the F-35, and will play a leading role across regional sustainment work for avionics and digital mission systems plus electrical system components.

The business’ role in supporting the next generation fighter aircraft is expected lead to the creation of more than 200 high-technology jobs, it was reported in November by Defence Connect.

Opening up on how SMEs looking to connect with BAE could try to carve up a slice of the JSF maintenance opportunity, Drury said that while he could not divulge any names or numbers, there were ways they could reach BAE Systems Australia.

Much of the work will be fulfilled from its facilities in Williamtown in NSW – which will be a key hub for the JSF.

“There is the Hunter Group,” Drury told Defence Connect. “There's certain areas within the Hunter where they can actually go and talk about defence, and they definitely know our contact details.”

He said the company’s facility at Williamtown played host to a range of other players such as Airflite, GE and Rolls Royce.

“We actually accommodate some other larger businesses and SMEs as well,” Drury emphasised.

“What I've noticed over the last few years is defence has recognised the high cost of having multiple contracts. They would actually rather have maybe just a single or just a couple of contracts. Necessarily, they're going to have to be primes, so the entry for an SME really is through the prime, and we're ready to stand up to that.”

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