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It is an exciting time for defence industry and Australia’s undersea warfare capability. The thought of autonomous vessels surveying, communicating, detecting, and performing tasks, either on their own or with naval vessels (warships and submarines) brings a whole new level of capability for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) that only years ago seemed fictional.

With the surge of undersea capabilities currently being constructed in the Asia Pacific region, AUKUS comes at a critical time for the Royal Australian Navy and its allies.

The challenge for Australia, with its vast maritime approaches is how it dominates the underwater domain through control and denial. We are excited with the range of acoustic technology and tools that through Pillar 2, will support Australia’s ability to win the underwater battle.


Announced in September 2021, AUKUS is a defence and security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Through both its Pillars, AUKUS provides each of its partners with the ability to share, collaborate and work together providing acceleration for various technology areas including nuclear powered submarines and other capability enhancements.

Not Just Nuclear-Powered Submarines

The first focus for AUKUS was on the nuclear submarine program under Pillar 1, cancelling all previous work on SEA1000 and cooperating with the UK and US to acquire nuclear powered submarines over conventional ones. Since the announcement, Pillar 2 has been introduced and provided other specified areas of collaboration for each of the AUKUS nations. It focuses on developing a range of capabilities over several key areas; this will not only provide the ability between AUKUS nations to accelerate these advanced capabilities, but also continue to pave the way for closer military ties and more importantly, interoperability between them. There may be opportunity for other nations to cooperate and recent announcements point to New Zealand taking an active interest.

Undersea Warfare

From Australia’s perspective, the focus areas afforded through AUKUS are critical for the future security in the Indo-Pacific region. The region has never seen a buildup of maritime forces like it is currently witnessing; these forces, both surface and subsurface, can venture anywhere that the regions oceans allow them to. It is imperative that Australia, bordered by three oceans, views its vast underwater approaches as a priority to monitor, deter and defend against undersea adversary capabilities.

The establishment of maritime undersea ranges, the ability to communicate with them via autonomous underwater vessels (AUVs), while being able to track them acoustically will be part of the undersea warfare solution for Australia.

Time Scales – the Now and the Later

Pillar 1 is set in motion, work between nations has commenced with a pathway to acquire both current US and hybrid UK versions of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. But the acquisition will take time; the construction of nuclear-powered submarines, buildup of personnel, the training of their crews and support networks and upgrading of facilities and infrastructure will not be fully established for some time. Pillar 2 by comparison, will start immediately with work already commencing in Australia through the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA). ASCA will connect and streamline the defence innovation system to drive capability development and acquisition pathways at speed, and more effectively harness and coordinate the innovation ecosystem. In fact, all three nations are working towards each of the Pillar 2 capabilities through development and sharing.

These technology areas, particularly underwater, will transform the AUKUS members’ military interoperability and technology over the 2020s and through the 2030s, with the nuclear-powered submarines supplementing further deterrent capabilities when delivered.

A Changing World – Asymmetrical Capabilities

AUKUS Pillar 2 is about delivering advanced capabilities, including through technologies that can autonomously extend both the reach and range of the military. The Ukraine conflict has seen the rise of autonomous vehicles that have provided a transitional view of modern warfare, not only from the air domain, but also from land and maritime domains.

These capabilities have been highlighted in Australia’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR) as asymmetric. Capabilities like these will play an increasingly important role in the defence of Australia and its military. These asymmetrical capabilities originate not just from defence industry but from a range of industries, such as the offshore oil and gas and communications sector, that have been utilising technologies such as AUVs for decades.

The technology will be modified to carry a military payload to become force multipliers, working in concert with other AUVs, submarines or warships that will provide the RAN and Australia with valuable deterrent and surveillance technologies.

Cooperation Between Nations and Industry

While the US, UK and Australia have always been close allies, the AUKUS partnership is a technology accelerator between the governments of the three nations with a timescale and accompanying gateway of technology transfers, not seen before.

This gateway of technology transfer is not just from the military, but as previously mentioned, technology firms with high Technical Readiness Level (TRL) capabilities that have been working in industries such as oil and gas can benchmark their decades of working with autonomous vessels for defence.

With the backing of 50 years of experience in energy, ocean science and defence, Forcys Australia are introducing game changing technology through its expertise in the underwater domain with highly sophisticated, TRL9, – agnostic payloads for platforms. Through our technology partners, Forcys specialise in autonomous vessel payloads, acoustic underwater communications, sonars and camera capabilities, providing the benchmark for future AUVs and remotely operated asymmetrical capabilities.

In addition to the above, Forcys expertise in intruder detection sonars, command and control software and remotely operated towed vehicles, environmental sensors and laser scanners already provides world leading capabilities deployed with many navies around the globe.

Industry proven technology can help to rapidly accelerate Pillar 2 delivery

Forcys Australia are already supplying sensors to the RAN, Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG) and key industry stakeholders, we’re especially excited about the opportunities for Forcys with AUKUS Pillar 2 undersea warfare. Our capabilities are not just limited to asymmetric warfare; they can be utilised for underwater ranges, long range acoustic communications, MCM, along with tracking and protection of critical national infrastructure.

If you’d like to hear more about our vision for the AUKUS partnership, contact us for more information.

Sean Leydon retired from the Royal Australian Navy in 2020. Trained as an engineer, Sean completed an MBA as well as Masters degrees in both Strategy and Management and Maritime Studies.

Forcys brings together leading technologies, offering a comprehensive naval and subsea capability to the Australian defence market.

The release of Australia’s Defence Strategic Review pivots national defence interests toward the Indo-Pacific and places increased interest in the underwater domain. It calls out for new autonomous underwater vehicles to support their mission by highlighting the AUKUS Pillar 2 collaboration and seeks to work in close partnership with industry. It serves as validation for the recent expansion by Forcys Australia: new offices and a new team to work with customers that are already developing innovative underwater autonomous systems.

Backed by over fifty years of experience, Forcys offers the global maritime naval sector remote, autonomous, and networked control capabilities delivering integrated situational awareness to customers in the underwater domain.

Covering a range of maritime operations including asset protection, littoral strike, mine warfare, submarine rescue, and submarine and anti-submarine warfare, Forcys seeks to transform the underwater domain by enabling increasingly distributed and automated operations. This is made possible by integrating and bringing to market world-changing solutions from leading technology partners Chelsea Technologies, EIVA, Sonardyne, Voyis, and Wavefront Systems.

‘This feels great,’ said Sean Leydon, Regional Manager Asia Pacific at Forcys. ‘Although we are taking a relatively small initial step, this is a major milestone for our operations in Australia. And we are setting up in the right location. We are so grateful to the NSW government who supported us in our search. We also want to thank the University of Technology Sydney for their welcome. Innovation is fuelled by partnerships and the UTS Tech Lab enables us to work closer both with our customers and with academia. The lab is turning into a world-class research and development facility. I want our new Australian team to play a part in that.’

‘We are delighted to welcome Forcys Australia as an Industry Partner to the UTS Tech Lab,” said Professor Robert Fitch, (acting) Director UTS Tech Lab. “It’s a clear example of how we are supporting industry partners with the growth and retention of talent. Working alongside innovators in the underwater domain is also a great opportunity for the university to target our research where it is needed such us the AUKUS Pillar 2 Undersea Robotics Autonomous Systems (AURAS) project.”

If you are visiting Sydney please get in touch with our team.

The Watch interviewed CMDR Sean Leydon (retired), Regional Manager at Forcys Australia, on the subject of the latest ADF Defence Strategy Review (DSR). The DSR sets out the Australian Government’s strategic direction for defence over the next decade.

Leydon clearly understands the significance of the DSR: “It is clear that the Government is committed to investing in new and innovative technologies, and that the maritime domain will be a key focus of this investment. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the Indo-Pacific maritime domain is becoming increasingly contested, and there is a growing risk of conflict. Second, the maritime domain is critical to Australia’s economic security. Australia is a major exporter of resources, and the maritime domain is essential for the safe and efficient movement of these resources.”

The DSR identifies a number of key areas where Australia needs to invest in order to strengthen its maritime capabilities. These include:

According to Leydon: “The investments that are made in the coming years will have a major impact on Australia’s ability to protect its interests in the maritime domain.”

AUKUS and Pillar 2

AUKUS is a new trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was announced in September 2021, and its primary goal is to strengthen the three countries’ ability to operate in the Indo-Pacific region. Pillar 2 of AUKUS is focused on key capabilities including undersea warfare. It will involve the three countries working together to develop new and innovative technologies, such as autonomous underwater vehicles. These technologies will be used to improve the three countries’ ability to detect, track, and defeat submarines.

Leydon understands that the importance of undersea warfare cannot be overstated. According to him: ”Submarines are a major threat to surface ships and aircraft. They are also a key asset for countries that are seeking to project power in the maritime domain. The development of new and innovative technologies is essential for maintaining a strong undersea warfare capability and integral to the DSR. AUKUS Pillar 2 will help the three countries to do just that. Under AUKUS Pillar 2 the Undersea Robotics Autonomous Systems (AURAS) project, will pave the way for underwater networks consisting of crewed and uncrewed vessels, or also a networked underwater range enabling the navy to share information and coordinate actions between their vessels. This would allow the Navy to operate more effectively and efficiently and would give it a significant advantage over adversaries.

Leydon continues: ”As you know, uncrewed systems are playing an increasingly important role in maritime warfare. They can be used for a variety of tasks, including surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike. As the maritime domain becomes increasingly contested, uncrewed systems will become even more important. Why is that? Consider this:

However, uncrewed systems are not a replacement for crewed systems, they play a complementary role. By working together, crewed and uncrewed systems can provide a more comprehensive and effective maritime warfare capability.”

While the uncrewed systems are attracting a lot of attention, the payloads cannot be underestimated. Leydon explains: “The sensors and effectors provide the capability, the platform delivers it. It’s as simple as that.”

“Obviously, it’s important that the design of the platform meets the overall purpose of the capability, that it’s fit for its purpose, such as a frigate for a medium sized, smaller armed, fast platform compared with a larger destroyer designed for a greater armament.

The same goes for an AUV – it’s important that the payload is not only high quality (such as a multi-Aperture sonar, high quality camera or laser), but its navigation, communications and tracking systems are also high quality and precise allowing it to go where it’s supposed to and find its way back. Ideally, you want both the sensors and platforms to be built using modular designs – this allows for smoother integration of the sensors and makes future upgrades more feasible.

In other cases, a designed platform isn’t even needed. For example, the dropping or strategic placement of underwater sensors will provide you with an acoustic range that can detect an adversary’s AUV, submarine or underwater vehicle.”

The right payloads improve our situational awareness. In this image Voyis RECON modules capture an object of interest.

Joining Forcys

Sean recently joined Forcys and is spearheading our Australian efforts, “I think Australia and its UK and US partners have a lot to gain from AUKUS and the technological transfer of capabilities that already exist. The DSR specifically speaks about the Pillar 2 ‘Trilateral delivery’ or joint R&D of enhanced capabilities, this collaboration with companies like Forcys will help provide the ability for all three nations to move forward with information sharing and technology cooperation. I’m especially excited about the opportunities for Forcys with AUKUS Pillar 2 undersea warfare – from the underwater acoustic communication network in Smart Sound Plymouth from our Technology Partners Sonardyne, the world leading intruder detection sonars from Wavefront already deployed with navies around the globe and to our AUV payloads. These are just some of the amazing proven capabilities that Forcys offer.”

Want to find out more or speak to Sean Leydon? Please get in touch.