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Vision for success


Wing Commander Darren Clare is marshalled into the parking area by a Lockheed Martin maintainer after returning from a training mission where his wingman Squadron Leader David Bell flew the 1000th sortie in a Royal Australian Air Force F-35A.
Wing Commander Darren Clare is marshalled into the parking area by a Lockheed Martin maintainer after returning from a training mission where his wingman Squadron Leader David Bell flew the 1000th sortie in a Royal Australian Air Force F-35A.

The Williamtown-based Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office is responsible for acquisition and sustainment of the F/A-18AB Classic Hornet.

In July 2016 the Hornets had only four years’ service life remaining, and the Systems Program Office had to plan for closure in December 2021 while maintaining high-tempo and deployed operations.

They began an ambitious reform agenda to outsource Hornet support and save the Commonwealth $13 million over 4.5 years while releasing 98 staff to other Air Force capability projects. The challenge required an agile approach and the critical changes were achieved in only 18 months.

Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office leadership set a clear mission statement: transform to support the establishment of fifth generation air power while delivering air combat capability. This helped Defence staff understand the need to contribute to higher Defence goals and reaffirmed the need to maintain quality support for Air Force throughout the reform process.

The result was a relationship-based contract with Boeing to deliver sustainment services for the Classic Hornet fleet. Building trust and a common understanding of the challenge with Boeing was key.

Despite the challenge of working in a change environment, the personal commitment to Defence from both Commonwealth and Boeing staff resulted in historically high Classic Hornet performance levels.

The Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office now operates on a ‘lean’ model, focusing on governance and assurance so that the contract delivers on Commonwealth and Air Force expectations.

Three key factors contributed to the success of the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office’s reforms. First, strong, evident and committed leadership provided a clear vision of maintaining air combat capability. Second, the Systems Program Office built the right team to guide the change. Finally, transparency with staff, customers and industry support partners was essential for cultivating trust and credibility.