Australian Defence Force RFID trial heads to Iraq

Part of $20 million pilot

Australia's Defence Material Organization (DMO) and Lockheed Martin today farewelled the first active Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag from Australia into the Middle East Area of Operations.

The RFID network for Defence logistics systems will revolutionise the in-transit visibility of stores and equipment transported throughout the supply chain, according to Brigadier David McGahey.

Defence is rolling out a leading edge 'Track and Trace' system to enable automated tracking of stores and equipment through the supply chain anywhere in the world.

"It will provide near real time automated tracking from the time the stores are consigned in the warehouse until they are delivered to the area of operations," McGahey said.

The Deployment of RFID technology through 'Track and Trace' is a foundational element of the Joint Project (JP) 2077 program that will culminate in the delivery of a world-first Military Integrated Logistic Information System (MILIS) over the next three years.

"JP2077 2C represents an important step towards the delivery of a purpose-built Integrated in-transit visibility system," McGahey said.

"The 'Track and Trace' capability will provide a number of significant benefits to Defence including reduced in-theatre handling requirements, automated tracking updates at multiple points along the supply chain, more accurate measurement of transit time, and the ability to rapidly locate consignments in transit areas."

'Track and Trace' uses active, battery-powered RFID tags on pallets and containers and is part of a global agreement with defence partners including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

It will be interoperable with other RFID-based in-transit visibility networks.

Last year the the Australian Defence Force (ADF) announced plans to radically upgrade its worldwide logistics operations by undertaking a $20 million pilot project that will see RFID technology rolled out in more than two dozen locations around the globe.

Under the scope of the project, RFID tags - which use wireless signals to write and read small amounts of data onto tiny microchips that can be stuck onto all kinds of items - will be attached to pallets the Defence Materiel Organization's logistics division uses.

As the logistics provider for the whole of the Australian Defence Force, DMO accounts for 32 percent of Australia's entire Defence budget.

Tasked with supplying everything from paper clips to missiles, the organization manages the movement of around $4 billion worth of inventory - and $2.5 billion worth of explosive munitions - across more than 50 physical locations in Australia and overseas.

Because of often tenuous supply chain links and delivery delays, multiple orders and poor visibility of the contents of shipping containers have made it a nightmare for troops to locate specific items in incoming shipments.

Wastage has long been a major problem among military forces: the US Army, for example, sent more than 42,000 containers of supplies to Gulf War troops - but half of those containers were unlabelled and many contained items that weren't even required by troops.

This isn't ADF's first RFID pilot, but it is the largest.

Ultimately, the test will dovetail into a larger effort: the complete rewriting of its In-Transit Visibility system.

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