WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin was selected as the “preferred bidder” for a multibillion-dollar Australian military project to build military communications satellites and supporting infrastructure. 

The Australian Defence Force on April 3 announced Lockheed Martin as the preferred bidder. This means the company is not actually receiving a contract award but was selected to move into the next phase of negotiations with the Australian government. 

Multiple teams spearheaded by major defense contractors for the past two years have been vying for the so-called Defence Joint Project 9102. 

JP9102 is billed as one of Australia’s largest space infrastructure projects. It requires a prime contractor to work with Australian businesses. Bids for the first phase of the project opened in April 2021 and closed in January 2022. 

Lockheed Martin said it was the only company selected to move into the next phase “to refine our offer based on their requirements,” a spokesperson told SpaceNews

According to Australian media reports, the ADF is interested in buying at least two geostationary communications satellites and wants a sovereign military satcom capability. Currently Australia’s defense forces rely on commercial satellite services and on the U.S. Wideband Global Satcom constellation. 

Air Vice-Marshal David Scheul, head of Australia’s Air Defence and Space Systems Division, said the project will deliver the country’s “first sovereign-controlled satellite communication system over the Indo-Pacific ocean regions.”

Prime has to work with local companies

Lockheed Martin edged out competing teams led by Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Australia’s largest satellite operator Optus.

“We are proud to be selected as the preferred bidder to deliver this critical capability to the Australian Defence Force,” said Warren McDonald, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand.

Lockheed Martin for decades has been the primary contractor for the Pentagon’s classified communications satellites.

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

The Australian companies that partnered with Lockheed Martin include Inovor Technologies, EM Solutions, AV-Comm, Linfox, Shoal Group, Ronson Gears, Calytrix Technologies, Conscia, Clearbox Systems, DXC and Blacktree Technology. 

Lockheed Martin said it also teamed up with the government of Victoria state in southeast Australia to establish Victoria as the engineering and technical hub for JP9102, promising to create more than 200 advanced space industry jobs in the state.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...