Home Digitalisation How Thales’ global and Australian collaborations support the ADF’s mission

How Thales’ global and Australian collaborations support the ADF’s mission

The Australian Defence Force’s objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to shape Australia’s strategic environment, deter actions against Australia’s interests, and if required, respond with credible military force has placed in motion a drive for new, emerging and enhanced capabilities. 

The 2020 Force Structure Plan outlines changes to the original investments charted in the 2016 Defence White Paper – changes brought about by rapid developments in Australia’s global strategic environment. These variations in our own threat environment and COVID-19 have only further strengthened the call for Defence to have its own Sovereign Industry Capability.

One of the key areas of interest and investment from Defence is an increased involvement of Australian industry in cyber, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, radar, communication, and space-based capabilities and sensors. As military operations become increasingly data-driven, timely access to important information and applications is critical for the Australian Defence Force. Whilst there are plenty of technology companies who have the capability required to deliver this enterprise Information and Communications Technology (ICT), many lack the depth of in-theatre military experience to truly grasp the unique capability requirements and pain points end users experience during battle. As a continued leader in creating and integrating solutions built specifically for in-theatre operations, Thales understands the unique nature of military technology, and the operational context and outcomes that the technology needs to enable.

“Looking at the type of applications and interoperability Defence was looking for, especially the desire to take advantage of cloud technologies, we decided we needed a partner that complements our strengths,” says Thales Australia’s Vice President of Digital Systems Peter Bull. “We wanted to bring together two very strong, well-established global leaders in their own domain, and we found Microsoft to be the perfect fit strategically and culturally.

“We could see Microsoft’s Azure Stack Technology combined with Thales’ strengths in maintaining the security and sovereignty of data would be an ideal solution for Defence.”

Bull says that the collaboration between Thales and Microsoft has brought out the best in both organisations, and in turn, continues to produce the best outcomes for the customer.

“We’re learning from each other all the time, challenging each other about how we’re developing and what changes we need to make in how our business operates to continue to support Defence,” said Bull.

Microsoft CTO, Defense and Intelligence, World Wide Public Sector Kate Maxwell echoed Bull’s sentiment and also spoke to the overall role of the private sector in improving military technology.

“Commercial companies, small businesses, and non-traditional partners are essential to introducing innovation into the Defence landscape. Microsoft and Thales are working together to bolster this partnership landscape and to create new opportunities for innovation within the Defence ecosystem.”
Microsoft CTO, Defense and Intelligence, World Wide Public Sector Kate Maxwell

As a leader in collaborative combat, Thales’ partner and supplier eco-system is extensive, and is underpinned by the strong recognition and belief that Thales’ industrial partners play an essential role in the success of the business. With a long and proud history that dates back to the days of Australian Defence Industries, Thales has always worked hard to build a strong local ecosystem of partners and suppliers to not only support the development of sovereign Defence capabilities, but to grow a skilled Australian workforce that can hold its own on a global stage. Between 2017 and 2019 Thales spent $1.3b on 1,616 Australian suppliers, supporting 1,765 jobs along our supply chain.

Civilian advances in a military context

One of the main goals of the collaboration between Thales and Microsoft has been the welding of cloud computing innovation, now commonplace in many commercial industries, into the unique context of the in-theatre military environment. Throughout the collaboration, Thales’ focus has remained on maintaining security and sovereignty of data during the cloud digital transformation and migration process. The use of a cloud computing platform will ease the transition from strategic to the tactical edge, and increase interoperability between Australia and its allies.

By taking much of the brunt of IT responsibility away from Defence operators, Thales and Microsoft hope to empower them to more effectively do what they signed up for — keeping the country safe from threats and supporting humanitarian missions. With our years of experience working alongside Defence personnel, we understand that timing and efficiency are critical factors on the battlefield, and there is no time to deal with legacy software and IT issues. By building a sound infrastructure early and offering shared resources to the ADF, Thales and Microsoft seek to get ahead of the curve and reduce IT headaches.

Australian products supporting Australian sovereign capability

With a goal this important, collaboration must extend beyond the two companies to include Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from around the world including key Commonwealth allies; the UK, Canada and New Zealand. The vast majority of Thales Australia’s work and contracts, however, will always take place in Australia.

Today, Thales has more than 2,000 Australian companies within its Australian supply chain – over 70% of these are SME’s, reinforcing Thales’ firm belief that its industrial partners play an essential role in the business’s overall success. This not only gives Thales a strategic advantage, it is also an agile and innovative way to bring new sovereign capability to life rapidly.

As such, Nexium Defence Cloud Edge includes high-end applications from three innovative Australian SMEs – Myriad Technologies, archTIS and Fortifyedge. By working in collaboration with these SME partners, Thales was able to identify and scale up end-user-based applications of the Nexium Defence Cloud Edge, deriving greater value for the ADF.

“We provided each of our SME partners with an identified customer pain point that was operationally relevant to the ADF end users,” said Bull. “Myriad, archTIS and Fortifyedge all came back with fantastic innovations. The speed with which they can maneuver really improves our solution to the customer, and ensures the technology is consistently evolving and remains future proofed.”

Due to the unique nature of military technology, a partnership with Thales also means greater opportunity to export SME products as part of a Thales solution with Thales Australia products accounting for $1.3 billion worth of exports in the last 10 years, as well as a channel into Thales’ Global Supply Chain

Continued collaborations with Australian SMEs and local industry not only helps to build resilient supply chains for critical Defence capability to serve Australia’s national interests, but is also a major contributing factor in Australia’s long-term economic prosperity and competitiveness on a global stage. Thales is proud of the decades of work it has done to create an industrial ecosystem in Australia that supports the Australian Defence Force and exports.

“It is creating jobs, and it is adding to that Australian sovereign military capability we believe so strongly in. We’ve been doing it a long time now, and we know how to innovate it and export it into the global market,” said Bull.

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