The defence company is backing its independent, “vendor agnostic” strategy in its push to secure the LAND 125 Phase 4 contract.
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Last May, Defence announced that it was seeking an industry partner to provide prime vendor services for product acquisition, integration and support to help deliver an Integrated Soldier System (ISS) as part of the LAND 125 project.
The ISS is expected to embed all elements and subsystems used, worn or carried by soldiers in any operational context or environment for up to 72 hours without resupply.
LAND 125 Phase 4 aims to maintain a modern, well-equipped, dismounted combat capability with an advantage over current and emerging threats.
Through the project, the government seeks to further its commitment to advancing Australian Industry Capability (AIC) by supporting local SMEs via a strategic industry partner, reinforcing implementation of its Sovereign Industry Capability Policy.
Speaking to Defence Connect, Babcock’s executive director of strategy and future business, Graeme Nayler, and head of business development, Mick Burgess, made their case for the LAND 125 bid.
Burgess outlined the key components which he believes set Babcock’s bid apart from its competitors, beginning with the firm’s past experiences supporting Commonwealth projects.
“We already support critical equipment and manage a whole range of complex supply chains for other programs, we’re involved in similar programs in other countries, and we’re able to draw on this knowledge to integrate a tailored, best-of-breed solution,” he said.
Burgess went on to emphasise the benefits of Babcock’s “vendor agnostic” approach to the project, noting that the firm is “not tied to any specific suppliers”.
“[We] enable a level playing field for all product suppliers, whether they’re large or small, so they’re able to compete as equals,” he said.
“[We don’t] have any products of our own at the table, or any close relationships with particular suppliers.”
Nayler echoed Burgess’ sentiment, adding: “Our behaviours and the way we operate, from both a conflict of interest [perspective] and being supplier agnostic, is incredibly important to the supply chain.
“We’ve spoken to pretty much all those in the space, technology primes, SMEs and a lot of the consulting firms. For this program to be genuinely valued by the Commonwealth and to be able to manage the conflicts of interest across the suppliers, being independent is very important.”
According to Burgess, Babcock has already identified over 140 suppliers that could potentially support the project, many of which are local firms.
Nayler added that the firm is confident local industry would deliver ‘best in breed’ products for the ISS.
“There is that undertone of AIC being a sacrifice to capability. For this program, we see the opposite,” he said.
“We’ve done technology surveys, we understand the market well and to be frank, a lot of what can be offered to this program, not just sustainment services but technology through the acquisition phase, can be met by the Australian market.
“Part of our value proposition is not saying we’re doing AIC because it meets the Minister’s intent, we actually believe the industry base at the moment will ideally support this program.”
Babcock has reportedly identified more than 50 per cent of the requirements that can be designed and manufactured in Australia, either through offshore companies willing to support local production or through Australian companies with the capability.
“We could have taken that approach of bringing together big brands, we have good relationships with some of the big US technology primes, but this project is not about [that],” Nayler continued.
“There isn’t a single OEM that has even close to 100 per cent solution; the Commonwealth wants this to be an evolving design and solution over life-of-type, and for us it isn’t about picking one or two big brands, for us it’s about the answering the exam question, which was an independent vendor manager for defence.”
Babcock is expected to unveil its next steps over the coming months, with the downselection for the project to take place in May.
A request for tender is also expected to be announced later this year, with new competitors likely to emerge.