A Geelong-based company has been awarded a significant contract with the US Navy under the global F-35 Program, cementing Australia’s reputation as a top defence exporter.
Chemring Australia, based in Lara, near Geelong, secured the US$107.5 million ($168.1 million) contract for the production and delivery of countermeasure flares for Australian, US and international F-35 operators.
Chemring Australia is a leading manufacturer and supplier of air-launched countermeasures against sophisticated electronic systems.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds welcomed the contract announcement, saying, “This is a strong endorsement of our domestic manufacturing capability, and the policies we’ve put in place to bolster our sovereign defence capability.
“This contract will also aid the ongoing advancement of a domestic munitions manufacturing capability – one of 10 Sovereign Industry Capability Priorities under our Defence Industrial Capability Plan.”
The Defence Minister added that the contract represents the culmination of a multi-year joint effort between the US government, the Australian government and Chemring Group to qualify Chemring Australia to produce countermeasures for the global F-35 fleet.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price echoed Minister Reynolds’ statement: “This is a significant milestone, not only for Chemring Australia, but for Australia’s defence industry as a whole.
“This will create highly-skilled manufacturing jobs in Victoria, as well as opportunities across Chemring Australia’s supply chain for many Australian small businesses from procurement of raw materials, to qualification testing and transportation.”
Since 2011, Chemring Group and Defence have worked closely with the US Navy’s Naval Air System team to qualify Chemring Australia as the second source supplier of the MJU-68 countermeasure, and MJU-61 training flares.
Senator Sarah Henderson said the new multimillion-dollar contract would help to attract and grow more high skilled Defence jobs in the Geelong region.
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“This shows that Victoria has the potential to be a real defence industry powerhouse, with regional cities like Geelong in the box seat to secure more work like this,” Senator Henderson said.
“This announcement builds on the Morrison Government’s significant investment to build and sustain 30 self-propelled howitzers in Geelong which will deliver up to 350 jobs and provide vital capability for the Australian Army.”
Minister Price added, “With Defence assistance, the company has expanded its state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Victoria.
“From this solid foundation, Chemring Australia has successfully grown their exports to the United States, with its workforce growing as a result by 70 per cent to almost 100 people in the last 12 months.”
To date, more than 50 Australian companies have shared in almost $1.7 billion in production contracts as part of the global F-35 Program, employing over 2,400 Australians.
For the RAAF, the F-35A's combination of full-spectrum, low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force-multiplying, air-combat platform.
The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have a projected life of 30 years in service.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.