THE OPENING of defence contractor Exelis’s expanded research and development facility in Melbourne earlier this year is expected to boost the company’s provision of services to the oil and gas industry.

Exelis acquired communications group C4i in January 2013, and with it the company’s Melbourne facility, which the company will use as its headquarters in the Asia Pacific, as well as a testing and systems integration facility.

With this new facility, Exelis will expand its systems integration capabilities and will continue to support growing its local workforce, the company said – estimating about 60 new jobs would be created.

Additionally, it will further the company’s continued research and development of emerging solutions in the areas of critical networks, ISR & analytics and electronic warfare for the global aerospace, defence and resource industries.

Exelis chief executive David Melcher said the decision to establish the company’s local headquarters in Melbourne was influenced by support from the Victorian government as well as growing market opportunities and the region’s engineering talent.

Speaking at the opening of the facility, Victorian minister for manufacturing David Hodgett said the Melbourne base of the headquarters enhanced the state’s strengths as a centre for communications technologies innovation.

“This new Melbourne office will accommodate Exelis’ increased workload, and includes a purpose-built laboratory facility for research and development, systems integration, product development and testing capabilities for local and export opportunities,” he said.

“This project will see key technology systems, engineering and management expertise transferred from the US to Melbourne to support the business expansion.”

This includes further expansion into communications technology, with Exelis C4i last year being selected by Woodside Energy to implement a site-wide communications system at the Karratha Gas Plant (KGP).

The Exelis C4i communications system, called SwitchplusIP, will be operational at KGP for 10 years.

It consists of core equipment at KGP’s technical office and radio interfacing equipment at its technical office, central control room and security gatehouse.

The system can be mobile or land-based and uses VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology to integrate legacy and modern equipment.

The system is fault tolerant and has network redundancy to ensure high availability, minimum downtime and rapid access to vital tactical communication assets at all times.

With mobile and distributed workforce focused on increased productivity, safety and security, the SwitchplusIP system allows KGP site workers and control room operators to seamlessly communicate using a variety of technologies.

Exelis C4i managing director Peter Harrison said at the time of the announcement that the system was ideally suited to the resources sector because it enabled safety improvements and cost reductions for complex worksites.

“We see opportunities for growth in this market as our technology allows for the future migration to digital radio technologies and the ongoing integration of newer, more mobile applications,” he said.