Note: This story has been updated to include the results of Australia’s air defense competition announced Aug. 28.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s chief technology officer will meet with Australian defense officials next month to discuss opportunities for integrated air and missile defense capabilities.
Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu and Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante visited Australia this summer to talk about opportunities for the two countries to collaborate. Speaking Aug. 29 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technologies for Defense conference in Washington, Shyu said the visit started a conversation between the two countries about how they might work together on air and missile defense projects.
“We’re going to start fleshing out details,” she told reporters during the conference.
Shyu didn’t divulge those details, but said she’s had conversations with the U.S. Army and Missile Defense Agency about collaboration opportunities on the Integrated Battle Command System, which will play an important role in connecting sensors and shooters for air and missile defense in Guam. The Army is the acquisition lead for the effort and is working with MDA to get the first wave of equipment for the architecture to the island in 2024. Northrop Grumman is developing the system.
“There’s significant interest from MDA and the Army, so the next steps is bringing the Australians in to figure out at what level do we integrate our system,” she said.
Australia’s Department of Defence is in the midst of its own effort to develop an integrated air and missile defense capability, the Joint Air Battle Management System. The agency on Aug. 28 selected Lockheed Martin as its “strategic partner” on the program, awarding the company a contract worth $765 million Australian dollars ($491 million) — overlooking Northrop, which had offered its IBCS solution.
More broadly, the country in April unveiled its new Defence Strategic Review, which emphasizes the need to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. It also makes a pivot from a hefty pursuit of vehicles and howitzers to procuring more missiles. The review singles out a need for an enhanced integrated air and missile defense system.
Beyond missile defense, Shyu’s team has also been crafting a plan for technology partnerships with Australia and the U.K. through the trilateral security agreement known as AUKUS. The effort has two pillars: the first is focused on nuclear-powered submarines and the second centers on building deeper cooperation on advanced defense technology.
Few details on the structure or content of Pillar Two have been released, but it is expected to include technology areas like autonomy, AI, hypersonics and quantum.
Shyu said she anticipates an announcement from President Biden on the details of Pillar Two this fall, and in the meantime, she has submitted a proposal for inclusion in the agreement that would emphasize a “portfolio approach” to technology collaboration among the allies.
“The path that I proposed is linking back together to show a portfolio of capabilities,” she said.
Asked whether other countries might participate in Pillar Two, Shyu said the three governments need time to refine their own agreements before adding more partners.
“Each additional . . . country you’re bringing in, that means you’ve got to share the technology,” she said. “You have to have the network to be able to share so it doesn’t leak to your adversaries’ hands. It just complicates things a lot. So, give us time to show success first via AUKUS.”
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.