The decision on the successful SEA 5000 Future Frigate contender that was expected in early June has reportedly been delayed in order to broaden the Australian industrial footprint on the program.
The National Security Committee (NSC) is thought to have selected a winning design earlier this month and was expected to have announced it during the week of 18 June, but a June 24 report by the ABC says cabinet has delayed the announcement while it works to include WA-based Austal into the nine-ship build-program.
Austal missed out on securing an agreement with Lurssen on the SEA1180 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) contract last month, despite government pushing the two companies together when it selected the Lurssen design. But unlike the OPV decision, the government seems reluctant to try forcing the issue a second time.
“If any of the successful tenderers wish to subcontract to Australian shipbuilders like Austal, we’re perfectly open to them doing so but that is a matter for the successful tender,” Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne told the ABC.
The report suggests Defence recommended the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship design over the Fincantieri FREMM and Navantia F5000 proposals and this was ratified by the NSC, and that a contract for the Type 26 could be one of the first of a new free-trade agreement (FTA) with the UK following that country’s exit from the EU.
The UK is known to be interested in acquiring military equipment of Australian origin, including the Thales Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle, a new integrated battlespace communications network, and possibly the Boeing Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft. Under an FTA, agreements for some or all of these capabilities could possibly be bundled as part of a Type 26 acquisition.