Abbott promises ‘permanent’ surface ship orders for South Australia

AIR WARFARE DESTROYER - OFFICIAL HOBART LAUNCHPrime Minister Tony Abbott has committed to establishing a continuous build program for surface warships that will centre on South Australia, guaranteeing that workers in Australia will build the Future Frigates and Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Australian Navy.

The federal government announced that the SEA 5000 Future Frigate program that will replace the Anzac class frigates is set to commence in 2020. Following a competitive evaluation process that is due to open in October, the Future Frigates will be built in South Australia.

Top-level requirements for the Future Frigates include the ability to carry out operations ranging from low-level constabulary activities to high-end warfighting, and the ability to operate helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Before SEA 5000 gets under way, construction of Offshore Patrol Vessels (previously referred to as Offshore Combatant Vessels) under SEA 1180 to replace the Armidale class patrol boat fleet is expected to start in 2018, again after a competitive evaluation process has been conducted.

SEA 1180 was envisaged in the 2012 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) as providing a single modular, multirole family of about 20 vessels that would combine four existing classes, and would likely be larger than the Armidale boats.

The government also stated that, in the interests of restoring public confidence in the naval shipbuilding industry, by the end of October “substantial” additional shipbuilding management expertise will be inserted into the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) program, with an extra $1.2 billion to be “invested” in the program budget.

“Over the next 20 years, the government will invest over $89 billion in ships and submarines for the Navy,” Prime Minister Abbott stated. “It is the first time that any Australian government has committed to a permanent naval shipbuilding industry. This strategy will transform Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry and put it onto a sustainable, long-term path, giving the workforce certainty into the future.”

To facilitate the continuous build process the Prime Minister said the government will conduct a strategic review into ASC’s shipbuilding capacity.

“Recognising that the Adelaide shipyards and workforce are strategic national assets, the review will consider options to ensure they are structured to support the government’s commitment to naval shipbuilding. This will include discussions with the South Australian government on the future of its Common User Facility at Techport, which forms an important part of the Adelaide shipyards,” the PM said.

“The outcomes of the review will be considered in conjunction with future decisions on submarines and surface shipbuilding programs.”