C4iSR: Air

OneSKY points the way for civil-military harmonisation

27 March 2015
Air Marshal Geoff Brown, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, with Chris Jenkins, CEO of Thales Australia and New Zealand, at the signing of the OneSKY contract in February 2015 at the Australian International Airshow. Credit: Australian DoD

Thales is working with Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on the development of the Civil Military Air Traffic Management System (CMATS) under the OneSKY programme.

The three principal delivery partners argue that CMATS, which costs around AUD600 million (USD468.9 million), will enable a new level of operational performance, as well as provide cost-efficiency and improved safety.

CMATS is the "first fully interoperable civil-military air traffic control platform in the world", Greg Hood, ATC executive general manager at Airservices, said on 11 March 2015 during the World ATM Congress in Madrid. "We think that it will deliver benefits in terms of enabling activities for flexible use of airspace, dynamic sectorisation and de-sectorisation, and greater efficiencies in terms of the ability to facilitate requests of civil aircraft to transit military airspace," he added.

Substantial growth is predicted at Australian airports during the next decade, including the proposed building of a second airport in Sydney and the construction of parallel runways at Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, as well as a forecasted 60% increase in air traffic by 2030. This means that a new and improved ATM system is needed to enhance safety and efficiency, and reduce the regulatory burden. "Australia is now growing quite rapidly, and we need to prepare for that," Hood said.

The existing system used by Airservices for civilian ATC, called The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS) and also supplied by Thales using its Eurocat system, was commissioned in 1998 and has undergone more than 200 incremental system changes since then.

The opportunity to replace ageing systems allows Airservices to provide operational efficiency improvements for future growth, meeting the demands of both civil and military customers. To address the different needs and cultures of both parties, a civil and military ATM committee was formed. This ensured a unified and co-ordinated approach to designing a system that provided key benefits, including the delivery of more efficient air-traffic services, enhancing safety, minimising system induced delays and reducing environmental impact.

"We spent a long time thinking about what we wanted then proceeded to test the market through engaging with industry in an RFI [Request for Information] then RFT [Request for Tender] process," Hood remarked. "Thales is expected to take the TopSky product and re-engineer some of the software to meet our requirements."

Adam Burford, Thales vice-president for ATM in Australia and New Zealand, described OneSKY as a "critical win not only to maintain our presence in Australia, but also to be at the forefront of what is happening in ATM development".

The way in which Australia is blending civil and military airspace management "is in advance of what SESAR is doing, and therefore will be the first implementation of true SWIM across such a diverse set of requirements and systems", he added. "We are going obviously from a system primarily based on a point-to-point exchange of data, to a need to share complete system information across 15 sites throughout Australia. When you consider the size of Australia and the amount of data that is being transmitted, it's quite a challenge."

There is also a degree of serendipity in the timing of OneSKY, as existing military and Airservices systems are nearing the end of their service lives. "We're not only investing in a new civil military system because of the benefits, but also because the TAAATS Eurocat product will be 20 years old by the time we implement CMATS," Hood noted. "We could have done things the same way we've always done them and gone down separate procurement paths, but there's a real will now to work together."

Development and delivery of OneSKY will take place in stages, beginning with Thales entering an Advanced Work contract arrangement. To secure this contract, Thales worked closely with subcontractors Frequentis and Boeing Defence Australia.

"The key subcontractor in terms of supply of equipment is Frequentis with the voice switch system," added Burford. "Boeing is providing support in terms of procurement and deployment, particularly around the RAAF sites ... and there is a potential offering further down the track [mid-2020s] for air-ground enhancements."

Frequentis is now involved in advanced engineering work on the VCS 3020X voice switch, which will be implemented in early 2017. The company will also contribute IP bypass systems based on its iSecCOM product; plus smartTOOLS for airfield management and DIVOS recording and investigation tools.

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