Lockheed Martin clinched an ambitious $2.7 billion sovereign military satellite communications program in Australia, and they are set to revolutionize the future of the Australian Defense Forces (ADF). 

At the heart of this multibillion-dollar investment is Project JP 9102, set to provide the Australian government with a next-generation, transformational “sovereign satellite communications” capability, bringing the country a strategic game changer and elevating it to the ranks of a select few nations with such capabilities. 

This is the largest defense space contract ever awarded in Australia’s history, and it marks a significant step forward for the country in terms of military defense technology.

Lockheed Martin Australia’s historical pride and capabilities are borne from decades of working experience with the Australian Department of Defense. It started its growing space presence in 1998 with the Uralla Station investment.

Vice President International for Lockheed Martin Space Rod Drury said that the aerospace giant has expertise in the entire satellite system, from ground stations to commercial and civil space systems, as well as defense communications and Earth observation. Drury adds that the civil aspects of its space portfolio relate to the “exploratory aspects of space,” but “it is a military space in an organizational context under which the JP9102 program is pursued, and its ultimate delivery will fall.”

The chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand,  Warren McDonald,  expressed optimism about the multi-billion Australian military program.

“We are proud to be selected as the preferred bidder to deliver this critical capability to the Australian Defence Force.  This capability will provide the Australian Defense Force with robust connectivity and reliable information when and where they need it, and by extension, contribute further to the growth and development of Australia’s defense and space industries.”

McDonald stressed that his team would leverage its extensive experience in resilient satellite communications networks and space-based mission solutions for the JP9102 program.

For his part,  Lockheed Martin Space Executive Vice President  Robert Lightfoot is equally optimistic.

“We are excited to work with the Australian Defense Force and Australian industry to develop a robust solution for JP9102.  We are bringing to bear all of Lockheed Martin’s companywide capabilities as well as our commitment to supporting allied nations to provide an operationally proven system that meets mission needs in terms of coverage, capacity, resilience and extensibility of the constellation.”

McDonald added that a significant amount of the content for Lockheed Martin’s proposed JP9102 solution would be via Australian small and medium enterprises. The company is committed to knowledge sharing and technology transfer.

Lockheed Martin Soars High With Australia's $2.7 Billion Military Satellite Program/DVIDS
Lockheed Martin Soars High With Australia’s $2.7 Billion Military Satellite Program/DVIDS


Extensive International Heritage

Lockheed’s website affirms that the defense and aerospace giant is dedicated to growing their already extensive international reputation for excellence.

“Under Defense project JP9102, Lockheed Martin Australia – Space is poised to deliver a sovereign military satellite communications system to the ADF. That system will leverage Lockheed Martin’s long heritage in the development and delivery of some of the world’s most resilient satellite communications networks.”

The  defense enterprise  further explained that  one of the defining features of Lockheed Martin’s  JP9102 solution will be its “comprehensive resilience against an increasingly diverse and evolving portfolio of counter-space threats, recognizing the new realities of space as a contested war-fighting domain.” 

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“In space, this means designing a satellite constellation optimized to withstand anti-satellite operations that will employ any combination of electronic warfare (jamming), direct-ascent missiles, and co-orbital anti-satellite operations. Ground segment infrastructure, likewise, must be capable of surviving against the full suite of threats, from cyber and electronic warfare to more traditional forms of strike and sabotage.”

According to Air Vice-Marshal David Scheul, Air Defense and Space Systems Division Head, the sovereign military satellite communications system (MILSATCOM) “will increase the resilience, agility, and flexibility of the Defense’s military satellite capability.”

JP9102, the Australian Defense Satellite Communication System (ADSS), will deliver Australia’s first sovereign-controlled satellite communication system over the Indo-Pacific region. The new SATCOM system will provide ADF with a significantly improved sovereign capability, ensuring that Australia’s defense forces can access timely, accurate, and relevant information and data. This will also showcase its powerful ability in real-time information dissemination and increasing data capability.

Australia’s Significant Efforts To Invest In Defense Capabilities

Lockheed Martin’s multi-billion project with the Australian government is expected to provide a comprehensive space capability for Australia that includes ground and space segments, including the design, manufacture, launch, and in-orbit testing of up to five satellites. These satellites are expected to provide improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to protect Australia’s borders, part of significant efforts by the Australian government to invest in defense capabilities with advanced technology.

This includes developing new systems such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotics, and automation technologies, all intended to improve response times, accuracy, and cost-efficiency across multiple domains, including cyber defense, air defense, and land operations. Furthermore, this investment is intended to benefit national security and create hundreds of new jobs nationwide by leveraging existing industry partners like Lockheed Martin and building on their extensive experience in defense projects worldwide.

Australia is an excellent place for a company like Lockheed, says Drury.

“Australia is important because it represents a stable economy with governance, a very good and innovative workforce and a very good environment, meaning engineering, technical science environment upon which to establish our business and one of the [little known] aspects about Lockheed Martin in Australia is that we have been here for just under 30 years.”

Lockheed Martin’s Diverse Team  of Australian Companies For The  JP 1902 Program

A heritage flight formation during the Lockheed Martin Sace and Air Show in Sanford, Florida, Nov. 1, 2020
A heritage flight formation during the Lockheed Martin Space and Air Show in Sanford, Florida, Nov. 1, 2020/ DVIDS

In a recent statement,  Melbourne-based manufacturer Ronson Gears announced its long-term international agreement with Lockheed Martin,  with the former providing components for the multi-billion Australian project.

This agreement, signed in 2020, will see the company join Lockheeds’ Global Supply Chain (GSC) program and will lead to them becoming the first-ever Australian company to supply precision gear components that will be carried into space.

The Australian-based company provides prototype gears for the Common Solar Array Drive Assembly (CSADA), which will be utilized on several Lockheed Martin satellite platforms. The CSADA performs vital functions, including deploying and rotating the solar cell arrays that power the spacecraft. This helps ensure they remain optimally positioned towards the Sun.

“Coming from the automotive industry, it was important that we prioritize innovation and invest in digital technologies that could enhance precision across our production processes — especially for a Space environment,” commented Gavin New, General Manager, Ronson Gears.

“Lockheed Martin Space brings an unparalleled legacy in military and commercial satellite programs. Ronson Gears is grateful for the support Lockheed Martin has shown our business to date and the trust they have shown in offering this long-term agreement. Through our work under the GSC program, we have been provided access to global networks and the ability to contribute to space programs that will shape international defense capabilities. This would not have been possible without the opportunities Lockheed Martin has provided and, with this agreement in place, we are excited about the opportunities that are to come.”

Lockheed Martin’s diverse team of Australian companies to deliver ground and control segments and beyond for JP9102,  apart from Ronson Gears,  include AV-Comm, Linfox, Inovor Technologies, EM Solutions, Shoal Group,  Calytrix Technologies, Conscia, Clearbox Systems, DXC, and Blacktree Technology.

Lockheed Martin has also collaborated with the Victorian Government to establish Victoria as the engineering and technical hub for the company’s JP9102 solution. This investment will result in the creation of over 200 advanced space industry jobs in the state. Lockheed Martin Australia recently launched a space-focused education program with STEM Punks, a STEM education initiative to educate, upskill, and inspire Australia’s future workforce, as another example of the importance placed on workforce development.