KC-30A Through-Life Support

KC-30As in flight
KC-30As in flight

The existing KC-30A Through-Life Support (TLS) contract is managed by Heavy Airlift Systems Program Office (HALSPO) at Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley.

At the outset in 2007 the KC-30A acquisition team only had a rudimentary understanding of how Air Force planned to operate the aircraft. Accordingly, many of the underlying assumptions behind the TLS contract proved inaccurate as Air Force evolved its application of this new capability.  

The shortcomings of the sustainment structure (including the TLS contract) became evident in 2011 as the aircraft were delivered.  However, in a constrained resource environment, it was not until additional resources began being placed into HALSPO in early 2015 that a concerted effort could be put into updating the contract and overall sustainment management concept. HALSPO recognised the importance of adopting First Principles Review concepts in a sustainment setting. This meant positioning the Systems Program Office (SPO) as a strategically-oriented smart buyer and compliance assurance provider, recognising and leveraging the knowledge and experience of industry partners. The appropriate management of risk is also a key element of not only the contract reform activity, but also of the whole-of-business KC-30A Enterprise Reform.

Lessons learned from other SPO reform programs including greater involvement of Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group enabling agencies, consideration of direct contracting options and use of systems thinking approaches could also be applied to improve procurement and contracting management within HALSPO.

This led to the setup of the KC-30A Contract Reform Project Team, comprising HALSPO personnel, and shared-service partners from Materiel Procurement Branch and Performance Based Contracting Branch. A robust Management Review framework was also established. The Commonwealth team was paralleled by the TLS prime, Northrop Grumman Integrated Defence Services (NGIDS), and included subject matter experts from Northrop Grumman Corporation – their parent company.

Constructive engagement between the Commonwealth team and NGIDS enabled a collaborative partnering approach to the delivery of KC-30A sustainment services. Pleasingly, this partnering approach remediated and modernised the KC-30A TLS contract by applying a number of strategies to address the gap between ongoing sustainment demands and the baseline contractor capability established in 2007.

The KC-30A Contract Reform Project Team is now nearing delivery of a fully negotiated Contract Change Proposal to achieve the three reform objectives – hygiene, modernisation and stewardship. They will also deliver a refined contract management plan for the future progression and management of the KC-30A TLS Contract.

Key outcomes of the contract reform include:

  • Re-focusing the contract on outcomes (the what, not the how).
  • Removal of unnecessary constraints on the contractor’s delivery of the services (staying out of the contractor’s business).
  • Reinforcement of the contractor’s role as the Sustainment Enterprise Steward in partnership with HALSPO.
  • Promotion of behaviours that support delivery of capability outcomes.
  • The provision of a reliable foundation for the appropriate distribution of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the contractor.
  • The provision of a reliable foundation for effective strategic management of the KC-30A and the Sustainment Enterprise as a whole.
  • Meeting an explicit requirement and supporting framework for continuous attention to cost control, productivity improvements and improvements in overall value for money.

These reforms could only be achieved through collaborative teamwork between Defence and industry and they provide strong evidence of collective future management in support of the KC-30A.