Helping Australian SMEs diversify into Defence Industry – meet Sourcing Specialist David Welling

From building Tarmac Rally cars to manufacturing F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, Naval Group Australia’s Australian Industry Capability (AIC) Sourcing Specialist David Welling is a top gun with a need for speed, but his days of thunder are far from over as he revs up to help small-medium Australian businesses diversify into Defence Industry and the Future Submarine Program, a role he was born to do.

What is your role at Naval Group Australia, and what about it do you enjoy the most?

My role involves analysing and engaging with Australian industry, and developing end-to-end knowledge of supplier capabilities, their growth plans and investment strategies. We work closely with internal and external stakeholders to identify gaps between the Future Submarine Program capability needs, and that of Australian Industry.

What I enjoy the most is working with the Australian small-medium enterprises (SMEs). I started my career in a family business that was in the very beginnings of diversifying into the Defence Industry and I understand first-hand the differences between how a ‘big’ [Defence] Prime operates, and how the local factory ‘down the road’ operates. It really is quite different, and for that reason I get great satisfaction seeing local companies succeed in this space.

Why is Capability over Content so important for the Future Submarine Program?

Capability, in the right circumstances, has the power to sustain industry, whereas content tends to be more fleeting and leaves no skills in-country. We want to prepare Australia for a truly sovereign submarine capability; for not only our nation’s security from a defence perspective, but also our economic security.

What would your advice be to Australian suppliers wanting to get into the Program?

My advice to suppliers would be to ensure they have a robust plan to enter the Defence Industry. Working with industry bodies, collaborating with other suppliers, and keeping engaged through networking are all important steps. Naval Group Australia has some great information on our website for suppliers, but we encourage you as always to reach out to any one of the AIC team members. I am always happy to have a chat, and I am passionate about ensuring suppliers don’t feel alone and overwhelmed with all the policy and process around Defence contracting. If you are a supplier and you’re not sure where to start or you have some concerns you’d like to talk through, please do reach out to us. 


David (left) whipping around the Adelaide Hills in the 1999 Mitsubishi Evolution VI RS he took from factory specifications, stripped, and rebuilt to race in Australian tarmac rally – Early Modern class.


How did you start your career?

I started as an apprentice toolmaker and later joined the Defence Industry specialising in aerospace machining and manufacturing for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter vertical tail program. After completing further studies in engineering I drew on my earlier mentioned experience and led a project to set up a local SMEs on the F-35 program, which involved a large amount of specialised technology transfer from overseas.

I then left manufacturing to work on a bid, later joining the Global Supply Chain Program; an industry program that opens opportunities for SMEs into defense primes global supply chain. After completing studies in Project Management I joined Combat Systems on the Hunter Class Frigate Program as a project manager, before taking up my role at Naval Group Australia in the AIC eam.

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to start a career in Australian Industry Capability?

Advice from my own experience: start your career in a manufacturing environment where you are delivering something tangible. Manufacturing is an incredibly dynamic industry where you can really diversify and grow your skills, and by working in manufacturing early in my career I was able to be involved in a variety of different facets, from being on the shop floor through to engineering, project management, procurement, and facilities amongst others.

Make sure you work in a dynamic environment and take opportunities to step outside your comfort zone. If you try and take extra responsibility where you can and learn other disciplines and skills from the experienced people around you, you will succeed.

Covid-19 has seen our Naval Group Australia family of 200+ move to working from home. How are you going with the change of scenery?

I’m enjoying it as I find home a very quiet and peaceful place to be, but the challenge of working remotely from colleagues is certainly an obstacle as it is much more difficult to have those quick, impromptu conversations. My two dogs are probably the biggest winners out of this with all the extra attention they are receiving, but of course I’m looking forward to getting back in the office and seeing everyone.

What’s something about you we don’t know?

I have always been really into cars, a ‘rev head’ you could say (laughs), and I spent a lot of my time building road and race cars. I built my own Tarmac Rally car and raced for a few years, but I have since ‘retired’ and I get my racing buzz on a simulator these days.

My current daily drive is Nissan Patrol 4.2L diesel Ute, a bit of a change from what I’m used to but it gets the job done ferrying what I need for current home renovations (my other beloved hobby). I took up golf for a few years and managed to get to a 5 handicap for those that would ask, and I enjoy going up to the river waterskiing and wakeboarding, riding motorbikes, getting 4wd’s stuck, and generally being a nuisance.


If you would like to speak with David about how you can get involved in the largest defence acquisition in Australia’s history, email, and for more information for suppliers, or to register your business on the ICN Network, click here.