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Defence procurement and ship build strategy called into question

The procurement and ship build strategy for the Australian Defence has again come under fire with anticipated performance of new ships deemed slow and unsafe, a leaked report has found.

Findings from a “Engineering Team Assessment” of the Commonwealth government’s $45 billion Type 26 Hunter Class frigate program were leaked to The Australian recently. 

Nine of the vessels are to be built by BAE Systems Maritime Australia at the The Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia. 

The leaked report, presented to the Department of Defence, suggested the next-generation BAE Systems-built anti-submarine vessels would be “substantially” slower than initially anticipated, operating across a shorter range and leaving ships vulnerable to detection. (Reported by Defence Connect)

It also raised crew safety concerns, claiming personnel could be trapped below deck by floodwaters in “credible damage conditions”.

Described by BAE Systems as “the world’s first bow-to-stern digitally-designed anti-submarine warfare frigate”, the ships have drawn interest from more than 1500 registered Australian businesses to supply into the Hunter program. Construction is to begin in 2024.

In June 2018 the Australian Government announced BAE Systems was selected as the preferred tenderer to deliver nine frigates to the Royal Australian Navy and that BAE Systems would acquire ASC Shipbuilding, now BAE Systems Maritime Australia.

BAE Systems Australia says the Hunter program will create and sustain 5,000 jobs in BAE Systems and the defence supply chain over the life of the program.

“At its peak in 2028, the program will contribute around $1 billion in GDP to the Australian economy,” according to the BAE Systems website. 

Defence Minister Peter Dutton maintained confidence in the project. 

“Late last year we looked at this project in great detail and we decided that we will proceed with it,” he said (Australian Defence Magazine).

A statement provided to ADM by Defence said it was prudent to identify risks in the  Hunter-class design pathway.

“Actions and solutions that address these risks are well underway and form part of the structured design process that will deliver a mature design that meets our requirements in time to start construction of the first ship around mid-2024”.


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