Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Defence Technology on Display in Sydney

Greetings from the Darling Harcourt Convention Center in Sydney, where the Pacific 2012 Maritime Defence Conference. is on until 3 February. I was intending to attend the DSTO Technology for Amphibious Operations session. This is a high priority for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), as new ships are being acquired (including two new Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock Ships. The Australian Navy, Army and Air Force will need to learn how to work closely together (and with civilian public servants and industry). I saw how such operations are conducted, first hand at Exercise Tandem Thrust 97. The session was so popular, there was standing room only and so I looked at the exhibition.

One item which got my attention was 9LV SAT - Situational Awareness Terminal. This is sued on ships to display a map showing where friendly and other forces are. Unlike a traditional console, used sitting down on a large ship, it is designed to be used standing up in a patrol boat or a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB). There is a iPad-like touch screen interface for larger vessels and reconfigurable buttons for the RIB (it is hard to use a touch screen while hanging on in a small boat). Many of the text boxes on the screen have been replaced with pictograms.

Relevant to the LHD project are plans for computer aided training of the technical staff of the ship, those who will operate it and be transported on it. A "walk through" has been developed which looks like a video game, allowing personnel to familiarize themselves with the layout of the ship by "walking" through it on a screen. Simply finding your way around a ship can be difficult. There is also a simulation of the diesel engines for training maintenance staff.

It was also interesting to see the many small Australian companies which supply to the ADF and to the military of other countries. An example are the inflatable life rafts and escape slides used on modern ships. A large civilian ferry or military transport ship carries so many people that it would be infeasible to use conventional lifeboats and ladders to load them. So these ships now use inflatable slides like those used on passenger aircraft (an Australian invention) and inflatable rafts (from Liferaft Systems Australia).

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