How a small Ipswich business became a global player

TAE Aerospace started as a small, local business, which managed to secure a Defence contract, and based itself at Amberley.

Now, the Australian aerospace giant is a major global Defence player and about to invest $50 million into a new Ipswich headquarters to maintain engines for the world’s most high-profile jet fighter.

That incredible success story will be the core of TAE Aerospace’s CEO and Managing Director Andrew Sanderson’s presentation to the Defence Ipswich 2018 Summit at Springfield on 20 November.

Mr Sanderson said TAE’s journey is a message to other small and medium sized businesses that they too can get a slice of the defence industry cake and grow quickly.

“We started with a Defence sustainment contract in 2000. We were a very small, start-up SME and have developed into a major global business. The message is other SMEs can put themselves in a similar position to what we have become today,” he said.

TAE Aerospace is the largest Australian-owned aerospace company with a broad range of aerospace products and services. It has become a top contender for major military contracts and leads the way in the international supply chain among SMEs in the exportation sector.

It recently purchased the former Masters warehouse at Bundamba, Ipswich, and will invest up to $50 million in upgrades and equipment to create the biggest and best military engine maintenance facility in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mr Sanderson said the “bone structure” of the building was a great place to start from and would be perfect as the basis to establish a capability for the maintenance and engineering on the Pratt & Whitney F135 engines of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

“We can’t do that at Amberley. It is an 80-year-old building with limited space,” he said.

“We have outgrown that facility and have been looking do this for a number of years. This is significant growth for us.”

Australia’s Air Force has purchased 72 of the JSF jets, with the first planes arriving in late 2018. The Bundamba plant will also service engines for JSF jets bound for Korea, Japan, and US forces in the Asia Pacific.

TAE Aerospace CEO and Managing Director Andrew Sanderson.

Mr Sanderson said TAE Aerospace would transfer work with the Hornet and Super Hornet engine fleet, plus the Army’s Abrams tanks to Bundamba.

“We are also building a brand new advanced manufacturing facility (in the car park beside the Masters warehouse) to make products for the JSF program,” he said.

TAE’s engineering and test cells would be taken to Bundamba but the engine test facilities would stay at Amberley due to the noise factor.

“The test cells are for our jet engines and tank engines, which we don’t really want to put in suburbia,” he said.

The two-stage development at Bundamba is now underway and be completed by early 2020. There will be 140 jobs on site, with up to an additional 80-100 jobs created over the next 5-10 years.

“We have plans to become a world-class MRO provider for the F135 engine, just like our current work,” he said.

“We will start with a single line, single shift, however, that may grow to a twin line, twin shift in years to come.”

Mr Sanderson said TAE Aerospace was heavily committed to the Ipswich region and described it as a “great Defence enclave”. He said a third of the company had been employed in the last three years and the majority had settled in Ipswich.

“It is an ideal location for Defence industry businesses and SMEs in the supply chain. It has good distribution points for anywhere in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. It is one of the reasons we chose (Bundamba) to do the F135 engines,” he said.

Defence industries in Ipswich are worth about $800 million in sales, $600 million in exports and accounts for 20 per cent of Queensland’s total defence employment.

The Defence Ipswich 2018 summit – supported by council and the Australia Industry and Defence Network (AIDN) – is expected to attract between 250 and 300 delegates, and features key Defence industry speakers and decision-makers, focussing on sustainment and integrated logistics.

Mr Sanderson will be featuring in the Defence and Industry Collaboration and Cooperation session.

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