Turnbull sheds new light on plan for sustaining naval shipbuilding industry

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Austal’s design for the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement project. (Austal)

Building on the federal government’s pledge to establish a continuous build of surface warships in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced shortlisted designers for the Future Frigates and the Offshore Patrol Vessels, and has in addition named Austal as preferred tenderer for the Pacific Patrol Boats.

The government stated that the announcements provide for two shipyards to implement its commitment to the continuous build, with major warships to be built in Adelaide and minor vessels in Henderson, Western Australia.

First pass approval for the SEA 5000 Future Frigate program sees BAE Systems with the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Fincantieri with the FREMM frigate and Navantia with a redesigned F100 (the baseline platform design for the Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyer) shortlisted to refine their designs.

The nine frigates will incorporate an active phased array radar developed by CEA Technologies. Second pass approval is expected in 2018, allowing construction work to start in Adelaide in 2020.

Meanwhile, first pass approval for the SEA 1180 Offshore Patrol Vessels sees Damen Shipyards Group, Fassmer Group and Lürssen Shipyards shortlisted to refine their designs for the 12-vessel program.

Construction of the Offshore Patrol Vessels is set to begin at Osborne in 2018, following completion of the AWDs, but will be transferred to Western Australia when Future Frigate work starts in 2020.

Combined first and second pass approval has been granted for the SEA 3036 Phase 1 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement project, with Austal selected as the preferred tenderer to construct and maintain up to 21 steel-hulled boats.

Although still subject to negotiations, this project is estimated to be worth more than $500 million, with through-life support and sustainment including deep maintenance valued at a further $400 million, the government stated.

Austal said that it intends to construct the Pacific Patrol Boats at its Henderson shipyard, but the through-life support is to be performed at its existing facility in Cairns.