In a major development for Australia’s new Hunter class frigate program, an interim contract has been struck between the Commonwealth and BAE Systems Australia.
Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Defence, announced that the Australian Department of Defence and BAE Systems Australia have entered into an Advanced Work Arrangement (AWA) that will cover ongoing work on the $35 billion program, ahead of agreeing the Head Contract.
Minister Pyne said the AWA is an important first step in the process of transitioning ASC Shipbuilding into BAE Systems in preparation for the nation’s biggest shipbuilding program.
“The AWA is an interim contract which enables BAE Systems to continue to mobilise its workforce and progress the critical work required to ensure the project remains on track to start production in 2020,” Minister Pyne said. “The process of transitioning ASC Shipbuilding into BAE Systems is well underway, and ASC Shipbuilding, BAE Systems and the Department of Finance are making good progress in negotiations.”
Work continues on negotiating the Head Contract for the program, with signature expected later in the year, after the ASC Shipbuilding transition is completed. DoD will execute the Head Contract with ASC Shipbuilding – as a wholly owned subsidiary of BAE Systems – for the delivery of the Navy’s nine Hunter class frigates and associated support system components.
Hunter Class Guided Missile Frigate (FFG)
BAE Systems won the tender for the Royal Australian Navy’s SEA 5000 future frigate program, offering the Global Combat Ship – Australia (GCS-A), a variant of its Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) design, being built at BAE Systems yard in Glasgow, Scotland for the UK Royal Navy.
The estimated total cost of the program is AUD35 billion (£20B, USD26B) over its 30-year life, but is valued between A$15bn and A$20bn during the build phase. BAE Systems beat out rival bids from Spain’s Navantia with the F5000 design, and Italy’s Fincantieri with the FREMM design.
The contract will see BAE Systems delivering nine advanced guided-missile frigates, which will be called ‘Hunter-class’ in RAN service.
The Hunter class will have a 8,800-tonne full load displacement and will be 149.9 metres in length. The vessel will be capable of sailing in excess of 27 knots and will have a full complement of 180 crew. The vessels will also have accommodation for up to 208.
The new frigates will be equipped with CEAFAR 2 Phased Array Radar System, AEGIS Combat System and Saab 9LV combat management system.
The vessels will have a 5-inch 54 cal. Mark 45 Mod 4 dual purpose gun, a 24-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) and RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) anti-air missiles, a 48-cell vertical launch silo for Sea Ceptor anti-air missiles, two 30mm short range guns, two 20mm Phalanx Close in Weapons Systems (CIWS), MU90 Impact torpedos and the Nulka Decoy System.
They will be capable of landing a Chinook helicopter on its flight deck and will have hanger facilities. In operational use, a MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopter will be carried.
The frigates will have the capability to conduct a variety of other missions independently, or as part of a task group, with sufficient range and endurance to operate effectively throughout the region. The primary role of the vessels will be Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) but they will be also capable of conducting Air Defence, Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Surveillance & Intelligence and Interdiction missions. The frigates will also have the flexibility to support non-warfare roles such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).
The Hunter class FFGs will be built in Australia by ASC Shipbuilding at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. ASC Shipbuilding is a subsidiary of BAE Systems after its was transferred by Australia to the company until the completion of the project.
The Hunter class will begin entering service in the late 2020s replacing the eight Anzac class frigates, which have been in service since 1996. The final vessel is due to be delivered to the RAN in 2042.
The names of the first three frigates were announced as HMAS Hunter (for Vice Admiral John Hunter, the second governor of New South Wales), HMAS Flinders (for Captain Matthew Flinders, commander of HMS Investigator, the first ship to circumnavigate Australia) and HMAS Tasman (for Abel Tasman, the first European to discover Tasmania and New Zealand).