BAE Systems Australia’s shipbuilding business, ASC Shipbuilding, said Friday (5 June) that it has signed a contract with Australian company BlueScope Steel AIS for the prototyping phase of the Hunter Class Frigate programme, due to start at the end of this year. Under the A$2.6 million contract, BlueScope Steel AIS will deliver more than 1,500 tonnes of steel plate to ASC Shipbuilding. This is the first of a number of contracts ASC Shipbuilding will award to Australian businesses in the lead up to the Hunter programme’s prototyping phase and realises the company’s commitment to use Australian steel for the A$35 billion Hunter Class Frigate programme.

During prototyping, five representative ship ‘blocks’ will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. During this phase, the processes, systems, tools, facilities and workforce competencies will be tested and refined before construction commences on the first frigate in 2022.

ASC Shipbuilding Managing Director Craig Lockhart, said: “Today’s contract signing is the first of many contracts that we will award to Australian businesses in coming months, as we count down to prototyping cut steel in December. This is a significant milestone and in awarding this contract to BlueScope Steel AIS we are confident that we have selected the company with the best capability while meeting our commitments to supporting Australian businesses and maximising Australian Industry Capability.

“During the prototyping phase we expect to spend 90 percent of the value of the work required to construct the test blocks, in Australia, and I hope today’s contract signing is the start of a long-term relationship with BlueScope Steel AIS. The Hunter programme is about more than just building warships; it is about building an enduring and uniquely Australian sovereign industrial capability that will support Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding strategy for generations to come.”

BlueScope Chief Executive, Australian Steel Products, John Nowlan, said: “BlueScope is very pleased to be chosen by ASC Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia to supply steel into the prototyping phase of the Hunter Class Frigate programme. The company has a long and proud history of supplying steel into defence projects. In the 1990s we supplied more than 20,000 tonnes of steel into the original ANZAC-Class Frigate fleet that the Hunter Class ships will replace. This contract is an important first step in potentially supplying steel into the build phase of the nine submarine hunting warships.”

ASC Shipbuilding will design and build nine Hunter Class ships, which will be among the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates, for the Royal Australian Navy.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds. (PHOTO: Government File Photo)

Minster for Defence Linda Reynolds said “this latest contract signing demonstrates the progress being made on the Hunter Class Frigate programme, which will form the foundation of the (government’s) A$90 billion National Naval Shipbuilding Programme. Prototyping is an essential phase when building any complex warship, and will ensure employees at ASC Shipbuilding are thoroughly trained in using the state of the art digital equipment in one of the world’s most advanced shipyards at Osborne South in Adelaide. This first phase is key to the Hunter class program, which when complete will provide the Royal Australian Navy with a regionally superior anti-submarine warfare capability.”

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the Frigate programme is expected to create 4,000 Australian jobs, with over 1,100 Australian companies already pre-qualified to be part of the supply chain. “This is all about Aussie jobs and creating a skilled Australian workforce to deliver nine frigates for our Navy,” Price said. “It is important, now more than ever, to back Australian businesses and create more Australian jobs, that’s why we’re building Australian ships with Australian steel by Australian workers.”

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