UPDATE: This story has corrected to accurately describe the development and ownership of the program’s intellectual property.
MELBOURNE — Boeing Defence Australia is in the final stages of developing its Integrated-Battlefield Telecommunications Network for the Australian Army under Joint Project 2072 Phase 2B, and is now turning its attention to other local opportunities.
The Army’s name for the program is Project Currawong — in line with its tradition of naming communications systems after Australian bird species — and it is entering service with deployed Army units and the Royal Australian Air Force’s combat communications squadron.
I-BTN has been developed in-house by BDA and is a scalable and distributable telecommunications system which will form the digital backbone of the Army’s battlespace telecommunications. The intellectual property is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia.
Speaking on the eve of the Land Forces 2021 exhibition in Brisbane, Australia, on Monday, Boeing Defence Australia business development manager Darcy Rawlinson said the government recently granted approval for the firm to market the technology to members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. He specifically identified the U.K. and the Royal Australian Navy as potential near-term customers.
“The U.K. is looking at the [battlefield telecommunications] problem at the moment under Trinity program, and they have a very similar requirement to the Australian Army,” Rawlinson said. “They are looking for a wide-area network to connect their headquarters, and they also have additional responsibility to provide communications for large NATO headquarters. We have a scalable solution for that.”
Rawlinson added that the U.K. is currently approaching industry and that Boeing would respond through Boeing Defence UK. Under the plan, the U.K. unit would be responsible for the development of a local solution, based on the Currawong system, with much of the support and engineering work done in Australia by the local division.
“It will be a great opportunity for us and our existing supply chain because there will be more hardware built here in Australia,” he said.
The Royal Australian Navy is seeking to upgrade its Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network under its Sea1442 Phase 5 program and is expected to go to market later this year to canvas solutions. Rawlinson said a Currawong-based solution would meet the Navy’s requirements for an optimized, highly interoperable network capability and would benefit the Australian Defence Force in terms of amphibious operations and training.
“The Navy is looking for broadband connectivity across its major surface ships and they are seeking a capability which is able to evolve to meet future threats and requirements,” Rawlinson said. “The requirements are very similar to Army and RAAF requirements for Currawong. It makes sense for the ADF to share information across all three forces.”
The initial Joint Project 2072 Phase 2B contract was signed in 2015, with the first material release rolled out during 2017, providing a “black” — or unclassified — network capability.
The second release followed in 2020 and added features such as a troposcatter system, allowing beyond-line-of-sight communications up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) without reliance on satellite-based communications systems.
The third and final iteration of Currawong’s contracted development is now undergoing a test readiness review ahead of its system material release next year. The third release will add “red” — or protected, secret and coalition secret — networking and also a headquarters-on-the-move capability, able to be fitted into the Army’s G-Wagon fleet as well as the Hawkei and Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle fleets.