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Missile enterprise a shot in the arm for Khaki State

6 April 2022

By Robert Nioa

The Commonwealth Government’s decision to appoint the Australian Missile Corporation as one of its sovereign partners for the multi-billion dollar guided missiles enterprise has thrust Queensland into the defence industry frontline.

The AMC has forecast that the economic benefit of the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) enterprise over a 20-year period includes more than 13,000 jobs, $178.91 billion in gross output, $73.43 billion in GDP and $25.03 billion in factor income.

Queensland workers, skills and knowledge will be needed for this.

The AMC is a subsidiary of NIOA – a privately-owned Queensland company whose beginnings can be traced back to a fruit stall trading on the side of the Bruce Highway at Tiaro.

From that modest beginning, NIOA has grown into the nation’s largest privately-owned company supplying firearms, weapons, ammunition and technical support to military, law enforcement and commercial markets.

Australia has traditionally sourced advanced guided weapons from overseas. One key lesson emerging from the unfolding and tragic conflict in Ukraine is the urgency to become more self-sufficient when it comes to warfighting capabilities.

When the war began heroic Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the world “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride” in response to US offers to evacuate him from the nation’s capital.

The US and NATO members responded sending some 17,000 anti-tank weapons, but Ukraine forces have been using up the US-made Javelin missiles quicker than America can supply them.

For Australia, the sovereign missiles enterprise is a critical national security step against the backdrop of what Prime Minister Scott Morrison describes as an “arc of autocracy’’, namely Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region.

As an island nation, Australia needs to keep potential adversaries at arm’s length. Precision long-range munitions are one of the most important ways in which advanced allied nations achieve advantage.

They allow the men and women of the ADF to achieve success from longer range and with greater precision, meaning our people are safer and there is less risk to non-combatants.

As a sovereign enterprise panel partner, the AMC will be engaged to assist the Department of Defence to mobilise Australia’s industrial base in support of the project, including skilling, infrastructure development, research and development, and test and evaluation.

The AMC was set up in May 2021 as a collaboration platform following the Prime Minister’s announcement a year ago to invest $1 billion to accelerate a domestic smart munitions industry.

At NIOA we are serious about three critical factors: Our long-term vision for growing Australia’s industrial defence base; secondly the role we can play as a local company in ensuring the significant economic opportunities remain close to home; and most importantly, that our national interests are always best served when such important projects are controlled within this country.

Governments and Defence forces are searching for new ways to generate high technology capabilities more quickly.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton recently called on defence industry for urgency and faster delivery to meet the most ambitions re-industrialisation of defence since WWII.

Building the GWEO enterprise will be a huge undertaking.

The AMC has been overwhelmed by the interest from industry. Since May last year we have linked up with more than 320 leading defence, research and aerospace partners from Australia and around the globe who share our vision for sovereign defence capability.

While many key details are to be worked out, in the immediate term the GWEO enterprise might mean assembling or manufacturing advanced weapons under licence from overseas and leveraging our relationships with our AUKUS and Quad partners.

But for true sovereign capability to be realised, over the longer term we recognise that it is not enough to just manufacture and sustain a pipeline of those weapons, but also to grow Australian Industry Content and develop the technology that stays here.

That means immense opportunities for Queensland SMEs involved in the enterprise.

With more than 8200 jobs in the defence industry and home to world-leading technology, Queensland is growing its reputation as the “Khaki State’’.

The sovereign guided missiles enterprise is a once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure Queensland is at the sharp end of Australia’s defence industry for decades to come.

Robert Nioa is the CEO of NIOA