AU$139.5 Million Contract to Upgrade RAAF’s P-8A Poseidon Fleet

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy has unveiled a significant AU$139.5 million contract with Boeing Defence Australia aimed at enhancing the software, systems, and sensors of the Royal Australian Air Force’s P-8A Poseidon fleet. The contract, part of the Increment 3 Block 2 upgrades, will fortify the fleet’s anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike, and intelligence collection capabilities.

The initiative will generate 50 Australian jobs, encompassing six Certificate IV aircraft maintenance engineering apprentices, 38 Certificate II aerospace workers, and several supply chain trainees at the RAAF Base Edinburgh. The upgrade process will commence with Australia’s initial two aircraft undergoing modification in Jacksonville, Florida, with the remaining 12 to be completed by Boeing Defence Australia at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia.

Minister Conroy hailed the announcement as a boost to employment, highlighting the creation of 50 new positions and the reinforcement of the existing 283-strong Boeing Defence Australia workforce at RAAF Base Edinburgh. Naomi Smith, Boeing Defence Australia’s director of sustainment operations, emphasized the augmentation of the current workforce, which currently provides maintenance services for the P-8A Poseidon fleet.

Boeing Defence Australia will actively recruit and train apprentices and supply chain trainees, facilitating upskilling and offering long-term employment opportunities in a vital industry. Minister Conroy stressed the significance of investing in the P-8A Poseidon fleet’s upgrade, citing its contribution to job creation and ensuring the Defence Force’s readiness to safeguard Australians.

The upgrades are anticipated to involve over 300,000 hours of maintenance work over four years, with each aircraft requiring approximately 7.5 months for completion. New employees will undergo formal training with South Australia’s Flight One Academy, coupled with on-the-job training, to prepare for their roles starting in September 2026.

Additionally, the contract includes provisions for extending beyond its current 2030 end date to accommodate the delivery of two new P-8As to the RAAF in 2024 and 2025.


Expansion of Navy’s Surface Combat Fleet on Horizon

Photo: HMAS Stalwart conducts a dual replenishment at sea with HMA Ships Toowoomba and Brisbane during an Asian regional presence deployment. Photo by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.

The Government has unveiled its strategic vision for the future of the Royal Australian Navy’s surface combatant fleet, steering clear of partisan rhetoric in its announcement. This unveiling comes after a thorough evaluation of an independent analysis commissioned in response to the Defence Strategic Review.

Defence Minister Richard Marles, stressed the imperative for a larger and more potent surface combatant fleet in light of Australia’s evolving strategic landscape. He emphasized the necessity for bolstered maritime security to safeguard sea lanes and trade routes, especially within the immediate regional context.

According to Mr. Marles, the forthcoming fleet will mark a significant milestone, constituting the largest assembly of surface combatants since World War II. The independent analysis underscored the pressing need for immediate enhancements across various naval capabilities, including air defence, long-range strike, presence, and anti-submarine warfare.

Outlined within the blueprint are plans for the future surface combatant fleet, which includes:

  • Three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers, slated for upgrades with the latest US Navy Aegis combat system.
  • Six Hunter-class frigates, aimed at augmenting undersea warfare and strike capabilities, albeit three fewer than previous plans.
  • Eleven new general-purpose frigates, designed to fulfill maritime and land-strike, air-defence, and escort roles.
  • Six new large, optionally crewed surface vessels (LOSVs), promising a substantial boost to long-range strike capacity—a deviation from earlier proposals.
  • Decommissioning of the two oldest Anzac-class frigates, with the remaining six set for upgrades to enhance maritime strike capabilities.

In total, the fleet expansion plan outlines a procurement of 26 major surface combatants, a significant increase compared to prior projections. Additionally, the government has embraced recommendations for the acquisition of 25 minor war vessels, contributing to civil maritime security operations, including six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).

The construction of Hunter-class frigates will take place at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia, followed by the replacement of Hobart-class destroyers. Moreover, plans include the consolidation of the Henderson precinct, as advised by the Defence Strategic Review, to facilitate the construction of eight new general-purpose frigates and pave the way for six new LOSVs in Western Australia.

To fund these endeavours, the government has committed an additional $1.7 billion over the Forward Estimates and $11.1 billion over the next decade in Defence expenditure, aiming for an accelerated delivery of the future surface combatant fleet and bolstering the Australian shipbuilding industry. This commitment supplements the previously allocated $30.5 billion to Defence’s Integrated Investment Program, extending to 2032-33.

Minister Marles reiterated that the envisaged surface combatant fleet, characterized by enhanced lethality, would align with Australia’s strategic imperatives, as endorsed by the Independent Analysis Team’s rigorous assessment. He stressed the critical role of the Royal Australian Navy in ensuring the safety and security of vital sea lanes and trade routes, fundamental to national prosperity and connectivity.

Echoing these sentiments, Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy emphasized the symbiotic relationship between a robust naval capability and a sovereign defence industry, highlighting the plan’s significance in fortifying both.

Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mark Hammond underscored the importance of a strong naval force in advancing Australia’s diplomatic interests, deterring potential threats, and safeguarding national interests. He expressed confidence that the future surface combatant fleet’s size, lethality, and capabilities would position the navy to address evolving regional challenges effectively.

In closing, the government extended gratitude to Vice Admiral William Hilarides, USN (Retd), Rosemary Huxtable, and Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer for their leadership in the independent analysis, which has facilitated the most comprehensive update to the Navy’s fleet in decades.



Mates paddle for veterans.

Reproduced courtesy of the Corryong Courier

Three veterans who have firsthand experience with conflict have united with a noble cause: to kayak the entirety of the Murray River, raising awareness for Soldier On and MatesHeroHelp, two charitable organizations dedicated to supporting both current and former Defence personnel.

Known as ‘Old Vets Stomping’, the team consists of Ross Boyd and Ian Errington, veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, accompanied by their dedicated support member, Tony Turner. Commencing their 2,400-kilometre journey from Bringenbrong on February 14th, their ultimate destination lies at the Southern Ocean in South Australia.

With over a century of combined army service, ‘Old Vets Stomping’ has embarked on numerous challenging endeavours post-retirement. These include traversing iconic trails like Kokoda (96 kilometers), the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, Spain’s Camino de Santiago, South Australia’s Heysen Trail, the path to Mount Everest Base Camp, and Tasmania’s Overland Track. Their collective efforts have raised upwards of $25,000 for charitable causes.

Despite limited kayaking experience, the team underwent rigorous training in Brisbane and the Gold Coast last year to ensure they could safely undertake this ambitious journey. Along the way, they plan to halt at various towns and settlements along the Murray River, engaging with locals to spread awareness and garner support.

Stuart Spratt, owner of a café in Corryong, has been instrumental in facilitating fundraising connections in the North East. Additionally, he has organized walks from Lake Hume to Corryong for Soldier On, further amplifying their cause.

Beyond raising funds, ‘Old Vets Stomping’ aims to inspire younger war veterans to engage with organizations like the RSL (Returned and Services League) or other service clubs, thereby alleviating the burden on aging memberships. They intend to converse with RSL branches during their journey, highlighting the potential of this underutilized resource.

All endeavors undertaken by ‘Old Vets Stomping’ have been self-funded, with donations from supportive family and friends enabling the purchase of two expedition kayaks. Following the completion of their journey, these kayaks will be donated to MatesHeroHelp, perpetuating their commitment to supporting fellow veterans.


Visit the Supporting ADF Veterans GoFundMe page to support the cause.


The Most Dangerous WW2 Bomber

In the spring of 1945, amidst the bustling activity of a forward airfield nestled in the heart of Belgium, the dedicated ground crews of the 449th Bombardment Squadron toiled with urgency, preparing for their latest mission. Among the rows of formidable B-26 Marauders, there stood one aircraft that bore the scars of countless battles, its fuselage adorned with a tapestry of over a thousand patches, each representing a harrowing encounter with enemy fire. This distinguished bomber, affectionately dubbed “Flak Bait” by its weary crew, had become a legend within the 449th, a symbol of resilience against the relentless onslaught of warfare.

With its battered but steadfast frame, Flak Bait was poised to embark on its 200th mission, a testament to its enduring strength and the unwavering determination of those who manned its controls. At the helm of this historic flight was none other than Colonel John Samuel, a seasoned veteran and the esteemed commanding officer of the 332nd Bombardment Group. With unyielding confidence, Colonel Samuel had personally selected Flak Bait as the flagship of the assault, entrusting its battle-hardened crew with the pivotal task of leading the charge against Nazi targets deep within the heart of Germany.

Beside Colonel Samuel sat Captain Samuel, his trusted copilot, their shared mission crystal clear: to navigate the treacherous skies, evade enemy defenses, and deliver a decisive blow to the forces of tyranny. Yet, lingering in the back of their minds was the lingering specter of Flak Bait’s reputation, a haunting reminder of the perilous odds they faced with each passing mission. Would their luck hold out once more, or had the relentless barrage of enemy fire finally caught up with them?

As the engines roared to life and the aircraft rumbled down the runway, the crew of Flak Bait braced themselves for the challenges that lay ahead, drawing strength from their camaraderie and unwavering resolve. For in the crucible of war, where danger lurked at every turn, it was not just the might of machines that determined victory, but the courage and determination of those who dared to defy the odds and defy destiny itself.

“We paid our way.”

By Ernie Chamberlain

Vietnam: Australia paid its own way: In mid-July 2018, I assisted a former Aust Int Corps colleague and author/historian – Lex McAulay (ex-1RAR 1965-66; Aust Embassy; Div Int Unit) on his detailed – and lengthy (35-page), article on Australia “Paying Our Way” financially during the War. Lex’s work noted: “As you probably know, at hearings in Washington, Senator Fullbright testified: ‘no one except the Australians and the New Zealanders pays for its own troops.’ ” The “Larsen and Collins” book on “Allied Participation in Vietnam” acknowledges that Australia reimbursed the US for equipment and support. The Chester Cooper book: “The Last Crusade” (1979) notes: “the only non-mercenary third country allies we had in Vietnam were Australia and New Zealand.” Chester Cooper was ex-CIA and a member of the US National Security Council 1963-64. A couple of years ago, I reviewed the HQ AFV monthly reports that detailed our reimbursement payments to the US – ie for fuel, rations, accommodation, use of support aircraft, ammunition (SA and 105mm rounds etc), M16s, PRC-25s, batteries, R&R travel – etc. Lex’s article concluded: “The total above is US$54,139,402.21, and does not include amounts for 1971 or those paid to the GVN.” My earlier crude calculations had suggested that we reimbursed about USD 255 million to the US. Perhaps, we should have had “We paid our way” engraved on the back of our medals!!


NATO need for a warfighting transformation.

NATO’s chief, Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, urged Western entities to prepare for an unpredictable era, emphasizing the need for a warfighting transformation within the alliance. In a two-day meeting of defense chiefs in Brussels, he highlighted the shift from a time of abundance and predictability to an era where anything can happen, stressing the importance of focusing on effectiveness.

Bauer’s call for adaptation follows Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, prompting a shift in mindset towards expecting the unexpected and prioritizing effectiveness. Amidst political disagreements in the United States and the European Union causing delays in military aid, Bauer assured NATO’s ongoing support for Ukraine, emphasizing the global significance of the conflict’s outcome.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed concerns about Western hesitation potentially prolonging the conflict, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz criticized EU allies for insufficient support to Kyiv. Despite challenges, Scholz expressed confidence in the EU approving a 50 billion-euro aid package for Ukraine at an upcoming emergency summit on Feb. 1, following a previous setback in December due to opposition from Hungary.