Monday, 20 August 2012
Parliamentary Delegation to the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and the United States
I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the UK, Spain, Germany and the United States from 14 April to 3 May 2012. This was a very busy delegation visit. It entailed 14 flights in 17 days and all the travel that that means. Frankly, too much time was spent in aeroplanes; however, it was very useful. I was the only member of the House of Representatives on this delegation visit. The other five, led by Senator Bishop, were obviously of the other house.
The trip started in the UK. We went to the naval base in Plymouth and spoke with Babcock marine about submarine sustainment: the methodologies that they use to maintain the British nuclear submarine fleet and the fact that they as sustainers are these days integrally involved in the design aspects of submarines to ensure that the relevant design technologies are used and that maintenance is thus made a lot easier.
Following that, we went to Spain. The first place we went to was Ferrol. I was surprised—you hear about sunny Spain but it was pouring rain the whole time we were there. We went to Navantia and saw the two LHDs being made. We then went to Madrid. We spoke to the Ministry of Defence. We also went to Navantia head office and then to Airbus Military to speak both about the refuelling tankers that we are introducing to the Royal Australian Air Force and also about their bid for the light tactical transport. We then went to Cartagena, which is in the south, and it was very sunny and pleasant there. We spoke to Navantia again about submarines. What is very clear is that there is no conventional submarine in existence that will actually do what we require in an unmodified form. The simple fact is that the European submarines, which we would be potentially looking at, are all too small.
Following that, we went to Kiel in Germany and spoke to HDW about submarines again. Once again it was made clear that the submarines are small. We then went to the USA. We started off at Washington DC. We had 10 meetings, including with Frank Kendall, the acting undersecretary of defence for acquisition; the export conference roundtable; the Government Accountability Office; Dr Mike Gilmore, Director, Operational Test and Evaluation; two House of Representatives members; and the JSF Program Office. There were 10 meetings in all; I have not outlined all of them. In the meetings with both Undersecretary Frank Kendall and the JSF Program Office, they highlighted and pushed very strongly—unfortunately it is not reflected in the report—their concern about losing foreign customers to the joint strike fighter, given that the program is loaded up in the early years with foreign customers. Obviously if they fall over it has very significant implications for the program generally. This is something that I think the Australian government needs to be very cognisant of.
Following that we went to Boston. We went to Raytheon. We had a look at integrated air defence systems, particularly Patriot and NASAMS. We then went to Fort Worth for a day of classified briefings on the Joint Strike Fighter Program and also saw the facility where they built thousands of B24 Liberator bombers in World War II. We then went to San Diego and spoke with General Atomics about Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles. After that we went to Palmdale and spoke to Northrop Grumman about the joint strike fighter and also the broad area maritime surveillance capability, better known as Global Hawk. I will leave it there. It was a very useful delegation.