Lockheed Martin’s GM on SA’s shipbuilding jobs bonanza

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By Melissa Keogh

Jack Mahoney, general manager of Lockheed Martin Australia, says South Australia’s burgeoning defence industry is luring “advanced and highly skilled” workers to carry out some of the biggest defence contracts in the country’s history.

The former US Navy combat systems technician has been in SA for more than a decade and says the high tech jobs needed for the future submarines and frigates programs are bringing world class innovation to the state.

“I think we’re definitely changing perceptions and people’s way of thinking that shipbuilding is only about banging metal,” Jack says.

“We employ very advanced, highly skilled tradespeople, all the way up to employees of a PhD level.”

“These are extremely high tech jobs.”

The nation’s $89 billion naval shipbuilding projects are providing high-tech jobs of the future within many companies, including Lockheed Martin Australia.

Lockheed Martin Australia’s SA facility is located in Mawson Lakes.

Rather than being involved in the physical build of Australia’s submarines, vessels and aircraft, Lockheed Martin Australia is a leader in the research, design, development, integration and maintenance of advanced technology systems.

Its latest announcement is yet another example of the economy-changing defence projects set to unfold (and already under way) in SA.

The company is partnering with French shipbuilder Naval Group to carry out a $700m contract to fit combat systems into Australia’s Future Submarines.

Jack says the project, set to deliver 200 jobs, the majority in SA, is already in the design phase.

Lockheed’s combat systems are the ‘brains’ of a submarine, consisting of sensors and radar technology that collects data which is then processed to control the submarine’s missiles and torpedoes.

The systems will be integrated into Australia’s fleet of 12 new submarines, constructed at Adelaide’s Osborne shipyards.

“The combat system controls all the aspects of what the ship does from a mission perspective,” Jack says.

“It can see other ships in the water and it can detect if the submarine is under potential attack.

“The project will unfold over many years (but) we are in the design phase of development and production.”

The $50 billion construction of the Future Submarines Program is one of the biggest defence contracts in Australia’s history.

It’s set to deliver more than 2800 direct and indirect jobs over the course of its lifetime, expected to run into the 2040–50s.

Aside from the future subs, Lockheed is also delivering missile defence systems for the $35 billion Future Frigates Program – a fleet of nine new vessels to replace the ANZAC class frigates.

The highly advanced Aegis Combat System can shoot down missiles from long and medium range, increasing Australia’s defence against rogue regimes.

The system will include technology by fellow defence company, Adelaide-based SAAB Australia.

Construction of the vessels is expected to take place in 2020.

Both projects, plus the construction of 12 offshore patrol vessels, come under the $89 billion National Shipbuilding Plan.

Lockheed is also providing the Royal Australian Navy with combat systems for the country’s most complex ship construction – the Air Warfare Destroyers Program.

The project, involving the build of “the world’s most capable multi-mission ships”, is being worked on by 2000 people in SA and is driving high-tech manufacturing jobs of the future.

Jack says SA’s defence industry jobs are starting to shake the misconception that its workers are only skilled in traditional trades.

He says Lockheed Martin South Australia employs 300 people, of which half are (bachelor’s) degree engineers.

“I think we have to do a better job of advertising the (high skilled nature) of the defence industry,” Jack says.

“STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and (advanced) mechanical development – all these things are going on in our state and we need to find better ways of (letting) our school kids know.

“We engage with high schools and encourage students to be involved in STEM.”

Lockheed Martin Australia general manager Jack Mahoney.

Jack, who also sits on the Defence Reserves Support Council of SA, was in the US Navy for 25 years before moving to Australia.

With SA setting itself up as the epicentre of the nation’s defence sector shortly after his arrival, it made sense for the father-of-two to call SA home.

He says the defence industry holds significant responsibility and one sole objective – to keep Australians safe.

“If you get it wrong there are severe ramifications,” Jack says.

“The number one objective is to keep people safe.

“I’ve been supporting the state for 12 plus years, I’m very proud of SA.”

I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

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