The federal government is at least considering having the first Future Frigate built overseas, Defence has revealed, despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott clearly stating only last week that the vessels will be built in South Australia.
Although full details of the SEA 5000 Competitive Evaluation Process that will begin in October are not expected to be released until later this year, Defence has told Australian Defence Business Review that through this process the government will, among other things, be evaluating the costs and benefits of having the first-of-class vessel built at overseas shipyards in the interests of partially mitigating the effects of anticipated design errors and changes.
Abbott stated unequivocally on August 4 that the Australian shipbuilding workforce will build Future Frigates and Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Australian Navy, with the establishment of a continuous build strategy for surface warships in Australia.
While confirming that this announcement represents what will be the “centrepiece” of the government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan, a spokesperson for Defence said on August 11 that the document itself is not due to be released until early next year, specifically once the SEA 1000 Future Submarine Competitive Evaluation Process has been completed.
The spokesperson stated that through the Future Frigate Competitive Evaluation Process, and subsequent contracting activities for the build program, the government intends to:
- source designs from one or more foreign countries that have similar naval architecture standards to Australia;
- select designs based on the feasibility of production in Australia;
- have an experienced international shipbuilder take overall responsibility for building the vessels in Australia;
- connect designers and builders by means of interactive computer-aided design workstations located at the Australian shipyard; and
- evaluate the costs and benefits of building the first vessel overseas to leverage the parent shipbuilder’s production and design experience to partially mitigate the effects of design errors and changes.