AVALON NEWS: Apache Deal Brings Australian Companies into Helicopter Supply Chain
GEELONG, Australia — A recently signed deal between Boeing and Australia to buy 29 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters includes provisions to bring local manufacturers into the aircraft’s global supply chain.
Pat Conroy, Australia’s minister of defence industry, on March 1 said the deal will help bolster the nation’s indigenous defense industry.
“This is a $4.2 billion contract that will advance the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force and in particular, the Australian Army and its capabilities,” he said in front of an Apache on display at Avalon — The Australian Air Show. It “is all about driving opportunities for Australian companies into the supply chain for both the acquisition of the helicopters and the sustainment of them.”
The Apaches will be delivered between 2025 and 2028 and will include parts from four Australian companies: Cablex, Ferra, Axiom Precision Manufacturing and Mincham. They will supply wire harnesses, electrical panels, vertical spa boxes, machined parts, fairings and composites, a Boeing press release said. These parts will be on all Apaches going forward, not just the Australian fleet.
“This is a really important announcement that will generate good paying jobs for Australians as well as securing our nation,” Conroy added.
Successive Australian governments have pushed to build up the local defense industries so the nation does not depend on foreign suppliers such as the United States. It is also seeking more sovereign military capabilities in areas such as space, so it doesn’t have to depend on allies for services such as global communications.
Building sovereign capabilities is part of the deal for the United States and the United Kingdom to help Australia build nuclear-power submarines. Part of the so-called AUKUS agreement will be to assist the Royal Australian Navy to operate the submarines and for local industry to eventually build them in Australian shipyards.
Details on how the countries will implement the provisions of the AUKUS agreement, which includes a host of other emerging technologies such as quantum tech, hypersonics and submersible robots, are expected later in the month.
Kathleen Jolivette, vice president and general manager of Boeing vertical lift, said “By partnering with the Australian government and investing in local businesses, including small and medium enterprises, this agreement will help create jobs, develop Australia’s aerospace and manufacturing capability and grow the local economy,” she said in a statement.
The deal was in the works for several years after Congress approved the Apaches as a foreign military sale.
“These Apache helicopters will be equipped with some of the most advanced technologies, sensors and equipment, making them one of the most formidable helicopters in the Australian Defence Force,” Conroy added.
Conroy said job no. 1 is to deliver equipment to the Australian Defence Force as “close to time and on budget as possible.” But the secondary goal is to build up the local defense industry, which currently employs some 100,000 workers.
The nation has had some success stories but has overall underperformed when it comes to defense exports, he said. And governments all over the world want to do the same, “it’s challenging. It’s absolutely challenging,” he said.
One area where Australia can help is closing the gap on the guided missile supply chain, which has been taxed since Russia began its war of aggression against Ukraine.
Australia could not only supply its own forces with the munitions but be a second supply line for the United States. Conroy said he has had discussions with Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, about providing such support.
“That is one of the exciting opportunities we are exploring,” he said.