Over the past month a team at SubSea Craft has been visiting Australia to assess the feasibility of collaborating on various projects from Research and Development to manufacturing. The visit coincided with the announcement of a significant rise in core defence spending by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as a 30% increase in uniformed personnel: part of the Australian government’s response to ongoing tensions with China and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Given its geographic position, there is also potential to service the varied requirements of several regional customers from a base there.
Despite the unseasonal weather (catastrophic rains and flooding causing a tragic loss of life and AUS$Billions of damage), our team took the opportunity to explore New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria, and look forward to getting into Western Australia during subsequent visits to country, specifically during the Indo Pacific Forum in May.
SubSea Craft visited for a variety of reasons, primarily to baseline our understanding of the skills base in Australia, which is home to some of the world’s leading education centres and specialised training services. The expertise invested in Williamtown, Newcastle, as the location of the regional F35 hub is a good example of how a single military programme can drive an entire ecosystem to co-locate and generate additional business opportunities.
BAE’s high-profile manufacturing partnership with Lockheed Martin in New South Wales plays host to an impressive Defence program, servicing F-35 combat aircraft to regional operators. Crucially for SubSea Craft, however, the manufacturing facility is carbon fibre ready and is attentive to developments in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and complex systems integration. These capabilities compound to make Australia a key nation brimming with a dynamic, agile workforce, solid infrastructure and a mindset for invention, experimentation and innovation.
Australia’s continued development of a talented pool of R&D leaders, as well as its commitment to preserve and reproduce these skillsets across future generations, will be of great interest to SubSea Craft. Furthermore, a formidable centre of R&D is developing in Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, supported by a supportive state-sponsored Victoria Defence Alliance.
From this visit it is apparent that British SMEs will be welcomed into the eco-system of the Australian Defence industry, this accompanied by the recent announcement from the Australian federal government investing AUS$4.3bn into major shipbuilding projects. There will be additional focus across Western Australia to support a large vessel dry dock at the Henderson shipyard, amongst other initiatives. These high-level capabilities and priorities broadly align with SubSea Craft’s approach to ‘Design for Manufacture and Assembly’ (DfMA) and merit special attention for the future.
When physically there, it is the geography and political position of Australia that remains paramount. The Indo-Pacific region represents an increasingly central axis for world trade, as well as being the most significant national security challenge for the US and its Allies in the decades to come. There remain ongoing political challenges given Australia’s fractious trade relationship with China, a thorny issue sure to raise its head during the forthcoming federal government elections across the Commonwealth of Australian states.
In acknowledging the trajectories of Indo-Pacific growth which remaps the distribution of global demand, Australia represents fertile ground for export growth, particularly with incentivising state government policies that encourage the movement of highly skilled labour into the country. This goes a long way to ensuring that the nation’s geographic position – sometimes considered to be an unassailable barrier to international trade – is much less acute.
In summation, the Australia trip proved to be an exciting moment for SubSea Craft: understanding the reality of skills, labour, economics and national security on the ground has provided a different perspective in contrast to viewing these factors from afar. There is little doubt that further discussions over the coming months will define and shape the growing interest at SubSea Craft for Australia.
We look forward to returning to Australia for the INDOPACIFIC event in Sydney this May.