As has been very widely reported, the Battle Management System part of Army’s LAND 200 project has been withdrawn from service – and we can say with confidence that this happened on or before May 15.  Unless people have been disobeying orders, that was the date on the internal instruction issued by Army to their people to stop using it.  Neither Defence Minister Peter Dutton nor the Department have been prepared to comment – a situation that becomes less tenable the more that is known about the situation.

The December 16, 2020, cancellation order from Army.

While rumours about problems with the Battlegroup and Below Battlefield Command System have been swirling for a while – and the project was officially paused last year for a re-evaluation. The events nevertheless have come as a shock, partly because the situation has developed without any form of public information, taking everyone by surprise.

The Army instruction was very specific about what needs to have happened:

  • The employment of the BMS-02 system version 7.1 within Army’s preparedness environment is to cease no later than May 15
  • The following items are to be withdrawn, consolidated and quarantined by Signals Support Staff: memory portable solid state BGC 3 software USB memory stick; disc drive unit BMS-LAN PC, 256GD SSD, complete with mounting caddy; disc drive unit BMS ETC/SPLIT ETC, 64GB HDD; Personal Data Unit
  • The BMS-C2 system version 7.1 is not to be configured or accessed on the following systems:

APDR will not publish those details, but readers undoubtedly will get the point.  The BMS training system version 9.0 also needed to be withdrawn at the same time – with the exception of RMC-A.  This is a reference to the Royal Military College Australia, which is told to be prepared to adopt BMS C2 version 9.1 after the Commonwealth has reached an agreement, the details of which are not explained.

The instruction says that the withdrawal and disposal of physical hardware will occur at a later date.

The order also provides a bit of context, saying that the Elbit ‘Torch’ Command & Control BMS has been in service since 2011.  Torch is the reference C2 system fielded by the Israeli Army and which is the LAND 200 parent.  Another section is worth quoting in full as it sheds some light on why the move has been made:

  • Rapid evolutions in technology and interoperability needs have necessitated Defence to seek a replacement Battle Management System under LAND 200 Phase 3 in 2024

Phase 3 has an approximate value of $1 billion, which would be on top of the $2 billion spent to date. We will return to the topic of interoperability because that relates to security concerns about the BMS, which are not referred to in the quoted document.

It also says that the in service BMS operational and training baselines were specified in REF A (whatever that is).  This CEASEORD rescinds this direction.  CEASEORD is military speak for an order to stop doing something.

The instruction also points out that Army is in the process of investing $55 billion in new platforms such as the Boxer CRV and the Infantry Fighting Vehicles being purchased through LAND 400.  It also mentions upgraded M1A1 Main Battle Tanks and the Tiger helicopters – even though the latter will be phased out in the mid-2020s.  It says:

  • It is prudent that Army transitions to a new Battle Management System in time to inform the introduction into service of these capabilities

In summary: Defence is to cease use of the Elbit BMS-C2 in accordance with timings (May 15) in order to prepare for the transition to an interim battle management system capability.

LAND 200 has been a mess and with the benefit of hindsight should have been cancelled at least five years ago because of cost overruns, schedule slippage, poor oversight by Army – and a large number of other issues. However, the most exciting rumours and allegations – at least from the public’s viewpoint – is that flaws have been discovered in the software that allow an interested party to access it and snoop around.  That party is presumably Israel.

If true, it gives rise to the question of why Israel would wish to spy on Australia.  The reality is that it doesn’t – though the overseas intelligence agency Mossad has been caught out using faked Australian passports on some of its missions.  The real target in any such operation would be to use the Australian system as a back door into highly classified US networks once it was connected during a coalition operation or even during an exercise.

Israel and espionage.

The further question arises: why would Israel wish to spy on its most powerful ally, long standing friend – and supplier of billions of dollars of military hardware for free every year.  It is beyond the scope of this article to speculate – but it has happened before, and it is understood that the US has expressed its concern directly to Australia on the topic.  Israel’s strategic circumstances are fraught, and some people might consider it in the national interest to be aware of secret talks between the US and Iran, for example.

What we don’t know is whether shutting down the Elbit system has been caused by a particular event – someone caught with their fingers in the till, so to speak – or whether it is based on general concerns.  This might be similar to the thinking about the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei – they have never been shown to supply insecure systems, but when it comes to protecting vital Australian infrastructure the risk of them doing something bad is just far too great to take. At least that appears to have been the position of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), which has now been translated into Government policy.

The situation is compounded because Israel is a world leader in cyber warfare and cyber espionage.  Working with the US, they developed the STUXNET virus that set back Iran’s nuclear program for years – and follow up cyber attacks have continued.  Anyone from defence industry or government visiting Israel needs to be aware that their laptops can be accessed and the contents downloaded.  This even applies to journalists, though the intelligence value of numerous photographs of a cat and downloaded recipes must surely be minimal.

Elbit is not taking this very well.

There are credible suggestions that Defence finally removed the BMS at the suggestion of the ASD.  Like many other details, this cannot be confirmed.  For their part Elbit reacted vigorously with CEO Paul McLachlan – a retired Major General – issuing a statement:

“Elbit Systems of Australia strongly refutes the security rumours raised in recent media articles.

“Elbit Systems of Australia utilises secure software development processes in collaboration  with the Department of Defence, including the provision of all source code.

“Elbit Systems of Australia will continue to work closely with the Australian Defence Force to deliver its network capability requirements, utilising our 250-strong workforce, including 80    military veterans and 100 systems and software engineers.

“Elbit Systems of Australia is expanding and enhancing our proven ability to bring world- leading innovative technologies to meet Australian capability requirements for the Australian Defence Force, homeland security and emergency management agencies into the future.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton is now in a tricky position.  To confirm that the security concerns are legitimate would basically be accusing Israel of spying on the Australian Army as a mechanism for accessing Top Secret files in Washington.  For that position to be sustainable – even if the government wished to go that far – would require some firm evidence.  To just say vaguely “we don’t trust you” is not helpful to anyone and would be insulting to Israel and enormously commercially damaging to Elbit.

Apart from that, there are now numerous questions for Army and Defence to answer behind closed doors – assuming that the issue of a software back door is valid.  The National Security Committee of Cabinet will presumably want to know:

  • When did ASD advise Defence / Army of their concerns and who in Defence knew of them?
  • What evidence has been provided to Defence / Army about BMS security issues?
  • Has the US refused to connect with the BMS – and if so, how long ago was this view expressed and who in Australia knew?
  • Has Defence / Army ever informed the Defence Minister / Prime Minister of any security concerns – and if not, why not?
  • Has Defence / Army raised any of this with Elbit – and if not, why not?

A devastating ANAO report.

Elbit is understood to be considering legal action – but that might be completely negated if their contract is terminated not because of security concerns but for the more mundane reason of poor commercial performance, with multiple failures to deliver on time. There is ample evidence for this position and a report of the Australian National Audit Office released in May 23, 2019 was devastating – and it must have been the reason why just a few months later the Army announced two year freeze on the roll out of Tranche 3 of the BMS.

To pick just a few summary paragraphs:

  • The difficulties encountered in Land 200 Tranche 2 stem in large measure from one project office’s release of a Request for Tender with a scope that exceeded the approved cost and did not fully assess the budget consequences or governance and coordination arrangements at a program level. The desired outcome shifted from the procurement of radios to the procurement of a complex digital communications solution, as Army developed its understanding of how it would operate in a digital environment.
  • Defence did not establish fully effective project governance arrangements. Defence established an appropriate review framework, with successive reviews identifying project coordination risks from 2013. Defence management’s failure to implement the recommendations of these reviews until 2017 constitutes a failure of governance that negatively affected the 2015 tender outcomes.
  • Defence did not conduct an effective requirements definition process. The need to align the capability being procured by the two responsible project offices was recognised in 2012 but the project offices did not align requirements for the interconnected projects and developed different conceptions of the capability, adding layers of risk and duplicated effort. Army’s final stakeholder review before contract signature in 2017 raised concerns about the lack of verification statements for many requirements, which was considered to present risk to the achievement of an integrated network.
  • By late 2016, Defence had assessed Elbit’s tender as offering value for money but could not conclude the tender process until the overall affordability of the Land 200 Tranche 2 program — including the Tactical Communications Network — was addressed. Cost and risk ratings were adjusted to be more positive in successive tender evaluation reports, but the reasons for these changes were not documented.

And on it goes – page after page of documenting a litany of failures by Army and Elbit.  If ever a project was in need of termination, LAND 200 was it.  The current 2A Phase has a budget of $962 million – and that has now been flushed away, along with all of the earlier expenditure on Tranche 1 which was a similar amount.

None of this stopped Army continuing to declare until quite recently that LAND 200 was one of the world’s best Battle Management Systems.

Where to now?

That is a big question – and nothing looks to be immediately available to fill the void.  In the medium term there are very high hopes that the Australian C4 EDGE consortium will be able to develop a sovereign solution, which was first reported by APDR in February:

The report had the headline:  C4 EDGE to develop an Australian Battlegroup and Below Battlefield Command System Demonstrator.  Led by EOS, the team was made up of 18 Australian companies, listed in the article.  That has now grown to 24 local companies – including three separate world class radio suppliers – and they are all working methodically to demonstrate their system in November.  There is no slippage. The event will happen.

At the time, Defence in answer to a question from APDR, bizarrely claimed that this activity had nothing to do with LAND 200.

However, as effective as an Australian replacement might be it will not be in a position to be fielded immediately.  Even if everything goes precisely to plan and Defence throws the financial kitchen sink to fix a problem of their own making the best possible case looks to be a replacement system starting to come into service around 2024.

Some US sharks are starting to sniff around the blood soaked BMS waters but are unlikely to have anything available as an interim system that could match Australia’s needs and budget.

It didn’t have to be like this: a quick history lesson.

The very first attempt to digitise the Australian Army came in the mid-1990s through a program called the Australian Tactical Automated Command and Control System (Austacs) won by Celsiustech, which is now Saab Australia.  Austacs was doomed from the start because of the rapid pace at which communications technology was evolving – remember the internet was not really a Thing back then – combined with the customer’s staunch refusal to update the acquisition contract with even a single comma.  While receiving money to develop the system, Celsiustech warned repeatedly and loudly that when Defence took delivery of the obsolescent product they were insisting on, Army would take one look at it and decide they didn’t want it.  Sure enough, the company delivered the product exactly as specified – and Army took one look at it and decided they didn’t want it.

However, rather than go back to the drawing board, the project arose phoenix-like and was rebadged the Battlefield Command Support System (BCSS).  Celsiustech was then paid via a highly unusual time and materials contract to turn Austacs into the modern product that the Army actually wanted – and so disaster was turned into triumph.  As the name suggests, BCSS had an initial focus on automating a great deal of procedural and logistics information, providing commanders with information at their fingertips about how much ammunition remained in the area and how much fuel was in the vehicles.  Rather than spend hours of to-and-fro on the radio ordering stuff, it could now be done with the click of a mouse.  BCSS continued to evolve to include more and more features, such as route planning based on the availability of 3D mapping information.

In the mid-2000s, Defence decided that rather than continue to evolve BCSS they would release an RFT for a Battle Management System.  With their pedigree, Saab thought that they were in a good position – and to make sure that a future system had full connectivity with the US teamed with Northrop Grumman.  To the surprise of many, they were unsuccessful, having been underbid by Elbit, which at the time had no Australian presence, no prior contact with the Australian Army and were believed to have fudged the results of their field trial.

The Elbit Torch system is extremely effective – in its home environment of Israel.  Israel is a tiny country with a dense communications infrastructure – the complete opposite of Australia.  This has been one of the continuing technical problems that has bedevilled the program here – achieving the network density and quality required for rapidly moving large amounts of data with no time delay.

On the other hand, the Saab-Northrop Grumman solution – BAE Systems and Thales were also part of the bid – was believed to be too dependent on L-Band satellites, of which Australia had none.  Nevertheless, most experts believe that an evolution of BCSS into a terrestrial, highly effective Australian system could have been achieved with relative ease – but back then no one in government gave a toss about sovereign capability.  The Israeli system looked dazzling – and it was cheap.

The rest is history.


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Kym Bergmann
Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


  1. I am not familiar with the latest info but from someone who was around at the start, your article is so factually incorrect at the end, it does a disservice to APDR and invalidates the rest of the article.

    The old SAAB system was too expensive to maintain, and unable to be updated for a new comms infrastructure (the real problem). GD Canada was supposed to define the new network but tried to sell all their own product and this was terminated with an out of court settlement and GD Canada having to return all the funding.
    The SAAB bid was too expensive, only used MBITR VHF radios(no L band what so ever) and fudging of the network was done by Raytheon putting out unattended microlites to extend coverage (which was addressed)

    The ANAO report was positive about one thing and that was the Elbit BMS and it being value for money. The rest of it was a articulated as a governance mess by the CoA who changed the original approach with the TCN and 2 separate programmes from 2072 Ph 3 and L75.

    No mention of Harris performance on Tr 2, TCN status which is GFM to the BMS and it’s broader schedule impact.

    To think Israel would get top secret info from the US through a tactical secret system shows how poorly informed this post is, and more broadly…why would they do that…they are the closest of allies.

  2. Hi Gerald – thanks for your comments and I appreciate your perspective. Interestingly I have had feedback from ex-Army people involved saying that my summary was “about right” so it just goes to show that we can have different recollections. My reference to L-Band was related to the satcom part of the Northrop Grumman section of the bid – they were bringing an FBCB2 connection. Yes, GD were the early winners of the JP 2072 scoping study. I’m not aware of legal action to which you refer but I certainly know that Defence imposed crushing liquidated damages for late delivery and I have no knowledge of how that eventually played out, though GD Canada certainly exited the country.

    I have acknowledged that the Saab bid was expensive, but the feeling at the time – and subsequently – was that Elbit had gone in with an artificially low bid and once they were called in as preferred tenderer used the contract negotiations to ratchet up their price by an additional 30%. A not uncommon tactic back then.

    As for Elbit and security, I certainly agree that it is a very murky area. As I indicated in the article, it seems that it is the US that has been expressing those security concerns – though as I also write it remains unclear whether this has ever been done officially or whether it has been informal noise. Regarding why Israel would spy on the US, I refer you to the Jonathan Pollard case:

    With luck, some other readers who were involved at the time might wish to add their recollections.

  3. Thank you for your reply.

    I am curious on your point about page after page documenting a litany of errors by Army and Elbit as your own examples provided all point to defence Procurement process issues – and in particular, Tranche 2 procurement strategy, where there is the larger TCN development and integration between the tranches, other networks and with the BMS but this aspect seems to be not mentioned in your article.

    You reference a NG tender response, presumably within SAAB’s tender. Public information at time articulated Tranch 1 was a Line of Sight system so not sure why a Satcom/non-secure/L Band solution would have been offered – if it is as you say, I presume that’s why it was not considered.

    As you suggest, it was common at the time to strictly cost the bid to the scope of the programme and it was normal for award price to be higher. If there was an increase in award price between submission and signing, that could be attributed to a number of factors of which a successful SAAB submission would also also have gone through.

    I am curious if you have any evidence on your speculation on fudging trials – and also hope to hear other experts from the time – particularly around the potential of the in service BCSS solution being affordably upgraded to operate over new terrestrial radios.

  4. Hello again Gerald – I just picked a few sections out of the ANAO report to illustrate my comment that the project was badly managed. It was released on May 23, 2019 and it’s available here:

    You are correct: Northrop Grumman was part of the Saab team – along with BAE Systems and Thales.

    You are also correct that if scope increases during contract negotiations then so, too, does the price. Whether the Saab price would have gone up by a similar amount is unknown because I’m not in a position to provide a side-by-side comparison of the two offers. I do know that Saab felt extremely unhappy when they saw the final contract price.

    Regarding the allegation of fudged trial results, this was to do with an important VMF requirement, but I’d rather not go much further than that if you don’t mind.

  5. Hello again Kym

    The ANAO link aligns to my observations.

    Thanks on the clarification – your note above on intent to reference ‘project was badly managed’ seems at odds to this APDR report’s subtitle ‘A devastating ANAO report’ followed immediately by ‘Elbit considering legal action.’ The sequencing indicates they are linked, but you have clarified they are not and as layperson readers could easily come to wrong conclusion.

    The VMF testing was conducted by a Government accredited testing agency. Rumours about rigged testing of the VMF stack calls into question many independent government professionals – it is an ‘assurance’ activity as there are so many variables in that message set that it is actually not viable for Defence to test every variable (at least at the time) but statistically large enough – all tenderers, including SAAB were thus subject to the same variability

    In terms of your history lesson and rest is history ending….the Austacs/SAAB BCSS solution on top of sovereign developed radios (Pintail/wagtail/Raven) was not a success (costs/capability) and thus the change in direction.

    In terms of the people at the time not giving a toss – people at the time did care about sovereign capability and gave more than a ‘toss’ about local/all capabilities but sovereign developed had simply not succeeded. One genuinely hopes the edge approach going forward is successful – but history rhymes and can repeat.

    True professionals couldn’t give a toss about who from the defence industry players wins the next phase provided it is all done to deliver best capability to the Army (amid layers of complexity that tabloid media can’t begin to scratch) and within procurement governance processes.

    I agree with your comment – no one but government can do a true side by side comparison taking into account costs/risk/evidence/schedule etc but that is what the process does. I can’t comment on your knowledge of SAAB being unhappy with the outcome.

    To close, all defence and industry are aware of $1bn on Tr 3 and there remains the necessity for media commentary going forward to be based on fact, with rigorous review and not just ‘about right’ or expressing SAAB/Thales/NG/Celsius unhappiness, influenced by US App vendors trying to break in through indirectly spurring media speculation, or in this case an absence of broader Tranch 2 execution issues being commented on, etc etc etc

    Such reporting only generates more work for those trying to genuinely deliver the best for our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women.

  6. I couldn’t help but comment on this. Those of us who had skin in the game of AUSTACCS/BCSS would remember the purchase of Israeli comms hardware that was deemed a security risk before it had even landed. Anyone who thinks 5-eyes secure comms capability, techniques and content are of no interest needs their head read. Every military manufacturer works under the umberella of their respective governments and are beholden to them to a greater or lesser extent. If this Elbit product does have a ‘backdoor’ it shouldn’t be a surprise. It doesn’t make them the bad guys either. I’m sure their government mentioned the story of the ‘Gift horse in the mouth’ long before the tender closed. It’s good to know ASD continues to hold the line.

  7. I know nothing about the BMS. My comment relates to long gone but similar system that was the subject of an attempt to gain insight into the traffic it carried, the relationship between military OEM’s and their governments and the attractiveness of 5-eyes systems as a target.

    Regarding the BMS and Harris radios. I would guess that these are not the only bearer the system uses.

    You may not see the items listed as removed from service as ‘hardware’ I but I certainly would. Not only would they be part of the send/receive/store data chain but more than likely in the red part. Access to the high level code that runs a system doesn’t mean a lot. The devil is in the hardware. Unless you inspected every circuit item and every piece of embedded code in every unit in service you could never be sure there were no ‘un-documented’ features. That takes time, money and smarts. It sounds like someone did just that.

    Of course from a security and sovereign perspective indegenious design and manufacturing capability beats buying 5-eyes products or those from less secure sources.

  8. Israeli companies, and Israel herself have a notorious well proven record of spying on allies, especially the USA, hence my concern

    • If you have the slightest evidence for that claim, please present it. The Elbit subsidiary in the US has around 3,000 employees and is involved in some absolutely critical military contracts, such as the helmet mounted display for the F-35. If there were the slightest concerns about them spying they would have been shut down in an instant.

  9. quote

    ” For that position to be sustainable – even if the government wished to go that far – would require some firm evidence. ”

    no, it’s not a court of law, and they aren’t on trial. you need only suspicion to cease business with them, which would be wise given they have form for this sort of thing

    • Wrong. There are these things called contracts. You cannot arbitrarily break contracts because of feelings or suspicions or because it happens to be a full moon. If you do that you have to pay huge break contract fees. What Defence did with Elbit was legally quite cunning – they didn’t cancel the contract, they just ran down the clock for about 18 months and didn’t renew it for the next phase.


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