The latest government grant from the Modern Manufacturing Initiative will go to a Boeing-led defence aerospace manufacturing network based in Brisbane, with the government funding making up about a third of the $103 million project.
The Advanced Defence Aerospace Manufacturing Network led by the US giant will pull together ten small to medium-sized aerospace companies to develop new technology and parts for Defence aircraft.
This will include supporting a new uncrewed Boeing military aircraft, which the government has already backed and says will now be in production by 2025.
The federal government will provide $34 million to the manufacturing network project under the collaboration stream of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI), a program the Opposition has warned is being politicised by the Coalition to help its election campaign.
The large grant was announced on Thursday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with another eight grants worth $24.6 million from smaller MMI streams, while he campaigned in the Coalition held seat of Bonner in Queensland.
Speaking on the premises of Ferra Engineering, one of the local partners in the Advanced Defence Aerospace Manufacturing Network, Mr Morrison said the MMI program was backing local advanced manufacturing.
“It’s a program I’ve been particularly passionate about to ensure that we’re investing co-jointly as a partner with businesses like here [with] Ferra, and so many more around the country. To ensure that they can take that next step up, that they can get to the scale that they want to be at to be competitive,” the Prime Minister said.
Under the Advanced Defence Aerospace Manufacturing Network, Boeing will collaborate with project partners Ferra Engineering, Helimods, Naeco, RUAG Australia, Cablex, AME Systems and JRS Manufacturing Group.
Industry minister Angus Taylor said the project, which has an ambitious production goal of 2024-25, represents “Australian manufacturing at its best” and would create 1500 jobs.
“We are already a great manufacturing nation, and we can be better, we can be stronger, and that makes for a stronger economy right here,” Mr Taylor said.
“And on top of that, a feature of this project is that this is the first aircraft designed and built in Australia for 50 years and we’re getting on with it.”
The Australian government has already backed the development of Boeing’s military aircraft, now known as the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, under the Loyal Wingman program with a direct $40 million investment and partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force.
The US prime contractor last year announced plans to open a production facility outside Toowoomba and is already testing the un-crewed craft.
The Advanced Defence Aerospace Manufacturing Network announcement was the main part of a $58.6 million package of MMI defence grants, which also included support for eight separate smaller projects.
Other recipients under the latest MMI announcement include:
- Hypersonix Launch Systems (Qld) will use its $8 million in funding for the manufacture of a hypersonic target drone technology demonstrator using additive engineering.
- Sentient Vision Systems (Vic) will use its $2.1 million in funding to establish and fit out a new facility to manufacture VIDAR pods in Melbourne.
- Defendtex Research Labs (Vic) will use its $4.3 million to establish sovereign capability to manufacture guided warheads for unmanned aircraft technologies, missiles and small arms systems.
- Thomas Global Systems (NSW) will use its $2 million to develop and manufacture next-generation avionics and high integrity defence electronics.
- Marand Precision Engineering (Vic) will use its $1.7m to implement a welding centre with hardware, software and ancillaries to enable the survivability of modern military platforms using high-grade ballistic steels.
- Extel Technologies (Vic) will use its $1.4 million to support the onshore manufacture of electronics sub-assemblies for Defence supply chains.
- ANCA Pty Ltd (Vic) will use its $3 million for manufacturing cells for equipment and capability in ultra, precise CNC grinding for larger components required by the defence industry.
The government faced criticism about the slow roll out of the MMI program earlier this year, when it was revealed only $85 million from the $1.3 billion grant program had reached manufacturers since it was announced in 2020.
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