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International giant Thales eyes defence precinct

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From left: Australian Maritime College chairman Paul Gregg, University of Tasmania Vice Chancellor Rufus Black, Premier of Tasmania Will Hodgman, Thales Australia chief executive Chris Jenkins.

The Australian Maritime College and international defence firm Thales Australia will team up at the University of Tasmania’s defence precinct to develop state-of-the-art sonar testing equipment for the Royal Australian Navy.

A Memorandum of Understanding for a Thales presence at the Maritime Defence Innovation and Design Precinct was signed by University of Tasmania Vice Chancellor Professor Rufus Black and Thales Australia Chief Executive Officer Chris Jenkins at the Pacific 2019 Maritime Exposition in Sydney today.

Thales is the first defence industry prime to commit to the Precinct which aims to drive defence-related research and development projects in a world class research innovation hub.

The Precinct is designed to help the Australian Government to deliver on its $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise, including the $50 billion Future Submarine Program, by supporting the high value testing and evaluation needs of the RAN. The Australian Government has committed $30 million to Phase 1 of the Precinct.

AMC, Australia’s national institute for maritime education, training and research, has a suite of the Southern Hemisphere’s best maritime related research facilities which will enable critical design inputs into the building of 57 naval vessels over the next thirty years.

Professor Black said Tasmania was uniquely positioned to play an important role in the regeneration of Australia’s naval capabilities.

“Our relationship with Thales is based on a combination of the distinctive strengths of our people and our facilities and the nature of our island home itself,” Professor Black said.  

“We have world renowned expertise in maritme research and engineering, we have state of the art facilities, and we have access to Tasmania's incredible lakes, which are vital to our work with Thales.Our advantage lies not just in who we are and what we can do, but also where we are.”

Thales has a long involvement in Tasmania having undertaken sonar testing research in Tasmania’s deep, cold and acoustically quiet lakes since 1991.

The MOU comes on top of a Thales Australia, University of Tasmania, AMC and AMOG Consulting agreement last year aimed at making Tasmania the home of state-of-the-art trials and test facilities for submarine and surface ship sonar systems.

Thales Australia has a critical role in upgrading the sonar systems on the existing Collins Class submarines.  

AMC Principal Michael van Balen AO said the MOU would help AMC in its aim to support development of Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding capability.

“AMC and Thales’ involvement in the Precinct will make the niche capabilities and skillsets at AMC available for defence requirements for both Defence and defence industry,” he said.

“As a result, there will be a flow through of defence spending into the commercial realm in Tasmania whilst we contribute to the broader national defence endeavour.  

“The Precinct will be a venue where contractors, Government agencies and disparate parties come together to conduct tests and look at the design issues they are facing marking out the way forwards for better design, operated more efficiently with greater safety.”

Mr Jenkins said: “We will be working with AMC and industry participants like AMOG Consulting on advanced acoustic measurements to be taken at a wide range of speeds, over a number of distances and with a high degree of precision using equipment designed with the expertise of the AMC.”

Premier Will Hodgman said the MOU signing was a major step towards realising Tasmania’s new Maritime Defence Innovation and Design Precinct.

"This agreement will see Thales Australia establish a presence at the precinct, and builds on the joint commitment to establish a state-of-the-art trials and test facility for submarine and surface ship sonar systems using Tasmania’s deep, cold and acoustically quiet lakes," Mr Hodgman said

"The agreement is another important step in securing a larger slice of Australia’s $90 billion long-term national naval shipbuilding enterprise.

"AMC is already recognised as a significant training, research and development partner of the Naval Shipbuilding College, and today’s agreement with Thales will open up more opportunities for the precinct to grow and engage more Tasmanian businesses in defence supply."


Published on: 09 Oct 2019