ADF a first mover of the integrated fifth-generation air force

F-35 at Avalon Airshow

The managing director of one of Australia’s leading defence companies has identified Australia and its Air Force as key players in the worlds development of the interconnected and technologically advanced fifth-generation air force.

Northrop Grumman Australia's managing director Ian Irving joined Defence Connect to discuss the company's growing footprint in the Australian market and where it is looking to have its next impact.

"We're very excited about not just the amount of expenditure but the kind of expenditure and the kind of capability that Australia's generating," Irving said.

"We really do see the ADF moving almost as a first mover into this integrated fifth-generation force. The advent of programs like Triton, like the F-35 and these aircraft arriving in Australia and the P8 and Wedgetail providing the opportunity for – and LAND 400 in fact in the land domain and then these Future Frigates allowing Australia to really have a very integrated approach to the future development of a joint force."

The former engineer highlighted the unique and rare opportunity has to be at the forefront of the development and success of the fifth-generation endeavour.

"This is not something that we have an exemplar around the world where we're actually as a country moving on the very front edge of that," said Irving.

"Something we need to do. We need to have that interconnectivity. The ability to move information around that network, improve decision-making for the folks that are in that battlefield."

The Royal Australian Air Force, from 2005 onwards, has characterised fifth-generation aircraft, like the F-35A, by very low-observability including internal weapons bays, and vastly improved situational awareness through a network-centric combat environment. Australia is set to receive 72 of the fifth-generation F-35A aircraft, with the full fleet in service by the end of 2023. Two, AU-001 and AU-002, have been delivered and each cost more than US$120 million. 

"It's very exciting for us [Northrop Grumman] because we do a lot, that's kind of what we do in spades in the United States," Irving said.

"C4I capabilities, analytics, networking, and advanced sensors. We're very excited about those opportunities and the technical contribution that we can make into Australia into the future that I think will be a very important part of our national security for people, from a cyber domain on your desktop right through to somebody in a foxhole with a radio trying to get advanced information through a network that's now deployed into the battlefield."

To hear more from the Northrop Grumman Australian MD, stay tuned for our exclusive podcast.

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