The Australian government’s National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise has reached a major milestone  with the official start of the prototyping phase of the Hunter Class Frigate Program. The prime contractor for the program, BAE Systems Maritime Australia, a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia, will build five prototype blocks to test the production systems, develop the facilities and ensure the workforce is trained to build the Hunter class frigates.

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

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said this was the culmination of two-and-half years of hard work since the completion of the Competitive Evaluation Process in June 2018. “As this government has always said, the Hunter class program is on schedule to meet its milestone of beginning prototyping in 2020 and beginning construction of the first of class by end 2022,” Reynolds said. “I commend the work of Australian Naval Infrastructure. They built a state of the art digital facility at Osborne Naval Shipyard-South with a A$535 million investment” from the government. “Now we are building nine of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates for our Navy here in Australia. The Hunter class program will be the cornerstone of this government’s up to A$183 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan which will see more than 70 naval vessels built here in Australia by Australian workers. This truly national endeavour marks the largest regeneration of the Navy since the Second World War, which will employ 15,000 jobs  across Australia.”

Rendering of a Hunter Class Frigate. (IMAGE: BAR Systems)

Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham said one of the world’s most advanced fleets of warfare frigates was starting to become reality with the first steel being cut for the prototyping phase. “These frigates will be built from some of the best steel in the world. Over 1500 tonnes of Australian steel has been contracted for the construction of the blocks during the prototyping phase for the Hunter Class Frigate Program,” Birmingham said. “This is providing enormous opportunities for many Australian businesses while driving job creation, apprenticeships and skills training at a critical time.”

Hon Melissa Price MP
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the official start of the prototyping phase marks the beginning of a decades-long program that will be the cornerstone of continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia. “Today is not only a celebration of a major milestone for Australian shipbuilding but also for Australian industry and for Australian workers,” Price said. “We are not just cutting steel – we are cutting Australian steel, in a yard built by Australian workers, and one supported by Australian industry. This truly world-leading digital shipyard will help our people and Australian industry do their job – raising the capability of Australia’s shipbuilding industry. During the modernisation of this shipyard, 66 of 68 subcontracts were awarded to Australian companies. Australian companies have been engaged to provide the steel to construct the blocks, to prepare and paint the blocks for construction, to make the jig wagons that will transport steel around the yard, and to provide non-destructive testing services.”

The prototyping phase of the Hunter Class Frigate Program is integral to enabling the delivery of the Hunter class frigates and leading to a Continuous Naval Shipbuilding industry in Australia. The prototyping phase of the Hunter Class Frigate Program will run for three years until 2023. The construction phase of the Hunter program is scheduled to commence by end 2022.

Gabby-Costigan-BAE-Systems-Chief Executi
Gabby Costigan BAE Systems CEO.

BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive Officer Gabby Costigan, said: “To start prototyping just two years after the contract to deliver the Hunter program was signed in 2018, is an incredible achievement. The pace of the program has been swift. We have moved into a modern, digitally advanced shipyard, progressed the design of the ship and significantly expanded our workforce. In the year ahead, we look forward to recruiting many more people to the program, putting the shipyard through its paces, engaging further with our supply chain and placing more contracts with Australian businesses.” 

BAE Systems Maritime Australia Managing Director, Craig Lockhart, said: “The next two years of prototyping will be incredibly important as we prove our systems and manufacturing processes ahead of construction starting at the end of 2022. Australian companies will play a significant role in the prototyping phase – the overwhelming majority of the content provided will be from Australian sourced materials and services. In parallel, we’re also working with Australian industry and academia to explore and test local technologies that could contribute to the efficiency of the construction phase.”

BAE Systems Maritime Australia will build nine submarine hunting warships for the Royal Australian Navy over the next three decades using advanced manufacturing technologies that link digital engineer design with automated technologies and digitise work packs for shipbuilders on the ground. Nearly 1,400 Australian businesses have registered their interest in the program via the online Industry Capability Network. The Hunter Class frigate is based on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship design, which supports a close partnership between the UK Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, all of whom have selected a variant of the design for their anti-submarine frigate programs, supporting greater operational, training and intelligence ties.


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