Kym Bergmann: Noting that the review into the structure of the RAN surface fleet is still underway, could I ask for a comment on the view of the Defence Strategic Review that all navies are moving to larger numbers of smaller ships?
VADM Mark Hammond: There are many worldwide trends, particularly in the maritime domain. The DSR is a reaction to some of those trends. It is also a reaction to the geostrategic environment, which i t describes as having changed markedly since the Defence Strategic Update of 2020.
The DSR talked about warning times being diminished. As you know, it takes time to change the size and character of a technically advanced navy like ours. Ships are designed and built over an extended period – for a Tier One warship that is often about ten years, going from concept to design, construction and in the water. It can be longer for submarines and some other platforms.
In the context of the current review the focus for me is on Epoch One, which is the fleet in being of eight ANZAC Class frigates – which I describe as Tier Two ships – the Three Air Warfare Destroyers, or Tier One combatants, six Collins class submarines. There are also two or three large amphibious ships, depending on whether you include HMAS Choules along with HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.
A lot of my focus – aligned with my tenure – is unsurprisingly on Epoch One, and I’m optimising the availability, sustainability and lethality of the surface force and the fleet in being. This also includes the Collins submarines and the patrol boats.
The DSR contemplates a number o f considerations for the surface fleet, but that is deliberately not proscriptive because everything is so integrated and lead times are so long. This led to the independent assessment team being stood up to have a deeper look at all of this.