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BAE Systems wins largest surface vessel contract in Australian history

The much-anticipated announcement of who will design and build Australia’s future frigate fleet has been made, with BAE being the successful bidder.

British company BAE Systems was chosen with their Type 26 variant seeing off competition from Fincantieri’s FREMM and Navantia’s modified Hobart / F-100. A fleet of nine Type 26, or Hunter class frigates as they will be known, will be built in Adelaide with the first metal to be cut in 2020. BAE Systems will absorb ASC’s shipbuilding arm for the length of the contract, returning it to the Australian Government once the final warship has been completed.

This follows the decision two years ago to award Naval Group the contract to build twelve submarines in Adelaide, whilst Lürssen and Australian construction partner Forgacs and ASC will design and construct twelve offshore patrol vessels, two of which will be built in Adelaide.

BAE Systems Chief Executive, Charles Woodburn, was appropriately proud of the announcement, saying: “BAE Systems’ selection as preferred tenderer for SEA 5000 reinforces our position as a leading designer and builder of complex maritime platforms. I am proud that our world class anti-submarine warfare design and our approach to transferring technology and skills to the nations in which we work is expected to contribute to the development of an enduring world-class naval shipbuilding industry in Australia.”

Formerly, the term ‘frigate’ was used to describe small but fast ships that patrolled the seas of the British Empire. Since the Second World War the term has come to describe small warships used for anti-submarine and patrol duty.

The new Hunter class will principally be an anti-submarine resource but has been deliberately designed for a multi-modal role. The central hangar can be easily modified to carry up to eleven 40 foot containers for humanitarian missions, or it can accommodate up to twelve Rigid Inflatable Boats for troop insertion, or indeed as a centre for aerial, marine or subsea drone storage and control.

The new helicopter landing deck can accommodate a Chinook helicopter, but the Leonardo MH90 will be the aircraft of choice for anti-submarine and patrol activities.

Britain’s older Type 23 frigate is generally regarded as the most capable anti-submarine ship in the world. The development of the Type 26 has taken all the advantages of its older sibling and enhanced performance in almost every department. The UK government has eight frigates on order, with the first of class under construction in Glasgow, due to be commissioned in 2022.

The Australian variant will be 149m in length and weigh in at 8,800 tonnes. It will have two electric motors for ‘silent running’ when in sub hunting mode and a powerful gas turbine which can take the ship up to speeds of 27 knots when required.

All- in-all a formidable addition to the Royal Australian Navy.

The London Office of the Agent General is working closely with BAE as they embark on this world-class program, and project that will truly grow and transform BAE’s presence in Australia. We are working closely to assist companies in BAE’s supply chain to understand Australian Industry Participation requirements, and what opportunities there may be for Australian partnerships or filling a gap in the local market.

For further information, please contact John Rees.