Western Sydney-based SME Baker & Provan in collaboration with Thales have manufactured the Modular Cylindrical Array (MCA) frames, ready for use on Royal Australian Navy Collins Class submarines as part of the SEA 1439 upgrade program.
Baker & Provan was established in 1946 by two returning Second World War veterans, Arthur Baker and Don Provan – the friends purchased an optical profile grinder and started business as proficient toolmakers.
In 1989 Baker & Provan, which was now fully owned by the Baker family after Provan moved into farming, began its first of many contracts with Defence, and the defence industry, with a heavy focus on Navy.
Less than a decade later in 1998 it partnered up with Thales to provide non-magnetic cranes for the Huon Class minehunter coastal (MHC) ships and then branched out further to support projects on both the Anzac and FFG vessels.
The company then cemented itself as a quality manufacturer within the maritime space by producing the control surface and hydroplane shafts for the Collins Class submarines.
Business development manager at Baker & Provan Malcolm Cazier explained, "While we serve a range of sectors from rail to mining, we’re no strangers to Defence and Defence projects account for a large part of our business."
Director regional procurement centre at Thales, Michelle Richard, said that when Thales went looking for potential suppliers as part of the SEA 1439 upgrades to Collins Class, there was a perception that Australian suppliers didn’t have the capability to produce the MCA frames.
"Baker & Provan proved that theory wrong. They were put through a robust vetting process and not only came out more cost effective than overseas suppliers, their product was also in many ways superior. They are also helping contribute sovereign industrial capability on a key underwater systems program," Richard explained.
Expanding on this, Crazier added that the core values at the heart of Baker & Provan is what keeps the business moving forwards and has it succeeding on projects like the MCA frames for Thales.
"We value teamwork, passion, honesty, accountability and, of course, safety here. We are committed to providing quality training to our apprentices and tradespeople. We’ve got 65 staff and we value each and every one of them," Crazier said.
Troy Stephen, director underwater systems at Thales, said it was important to select a supplier that Thales could trust, saying, "The Collins Project is an extremely important project for Thales and we wanted a partner we could rely on for the manufacture of this highly complex component."
With the first of the frames successfully passing final dimensional checking, manufacture of the following sets is now underway.
Scheduled upgrades, in particular to the combat, weapon, sonar and communications systems, maintain Collins' capability edge. Combat and weapon system upgrades were completed and the project closed in February 2019. Project SEA 1439 Phases 5B1 and 5B2 deliver communications upgrades, while SEA 1439 Phase 6 will deliver sonar upgrades.
Key industry partners for the Collins Class include:
- Raytheon Australia;
- BAE Systems;
- Pacific Marine Batteries; and
- James Fisher Australia (escape and rescue).
SEA 1439 Phase 6 will deliver a sonar capability assurance program for the Collins Class submarines. Tranche 1 will deliver high priority upgrades to sonar sensors, including the bow mounted cylindrical array and flank arrays, and related signal processing and display electronics.
Tranche 2 will deliver further sonar capability upgrades and an ongoing sonar capability assurance (OSCA) program.