Austal, Civmec and Navantia Australia announced recently that they have partnered to offer the Australian Government a proposal to deliver six corvettes in recognition of the Navy’s urgent need for increased strike capability. Designed by Navantia, the corvette combines the manoeuvrability of a Tier 2 vessel, with the powerful weaponry of a major surface combatant. The corvettes require a smaller crew than larger ships, without compromising on integrated anti-air, anti-surface, anti-submarine, electronic and asymmetric warfare capabilities, including sovereign solutions such as the Saab Australian combat system and CEA Technologies radars.
The three companies have been collaborating to develop a detailed proposal since November 2022. The proposal was first presented to the Commonwealth in response to the 2023 Defence Strategic Review (DSR) and the independent analysis of the Navy’s surface combatant fleet. The three companies are updating and expanding the proposal, now named the Tasman Class corvette.
The corvettes would be constructed entirely in Henderson, Western Australia, with production able to start rapidly as work on the design is well advanced and based on an operational reference vessel.
Austal chief executive officer, Paddy Gregg, said the corvette program will establish a genuine regional shipbuilding enterprise in Western Australia. “Integrating the workforce, supply chain, facilities, systems and processes of the three partners will pave the path towards the consolidation of resources as recommended in the 2023 Defence Strategic Review,” he said. “Austal recognises the strategic importance of a national shipbuilding capability, and we are excited by what this proposal would mean for continuous, sovereign shipbuilding, particularly in Western Australia. We have a long and close association with building ships on time and budget for the Royal Australian Navy, collaborating with the Department of the Defence, building ships based on third-party designs, and established relationships with valued supply chain partners. The Tasman Class pportunity is an extension of these relationships. Building Australia’s corvettes in Western Australia will establish both a genuine long-term shipbuilding enterprise at Henderson and the platform for continuous naval shipbuilding in the region – an enterprise that brings together the Commonwealth, regional shipbuilders, and their supply chains to establish a new warship construction hub.”
Navantia’s proposed corvette is based on is a proven design referencing the proven Avante class family. The proposed Australian variant has several key capability characteristics important to Royal Australian Navy operations that set it apart from other corvettes. These include superior endurance and range allowing effective regional force projection, greater seakeeping capabilities, and enhanced strike capabilities through NSM Anti Surface launchers and MK-41 vertical launch system cells. The corvettes would also integrate existing Australian payloads, including the Saab 9LV combat management system, the CEA FAR OPVR radar, the newly announced Naval Strike Missiles, and the MH60-R Seahawk helicopter.
With a crew complement of less than 100, commonality with other Navantia-designed Navy ships, and standards aligned to the Defence Seaworthiness Management System, Navantia’s corvette significantly de-risks training and support. This means they represent the lowest risk transition into service of any ship in their class, allowing Australia to upgrade its naval capability with speed and confidence.