Austal Limited has outlined a strong financial outlook for the future with more than $108 million in potential early-stage contracts including work on an autonomous patrol boat for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
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The shipbuilding, support and advanced technologies company has a number of projects under operation including commencement of sea trials in October 2023 for a modified autonomous and remotely operated Armidale Class patrol boat. The decommissioned patrol boat project will modify, test and evaluate autonomous options for the RAN and be renamed “Sentinel” Patrol Boat Autonomous.
In the US, Australia has a partnership with L3Harris Technologies to construct and modify autonomous capabilities for the US Navy’s Overlord Unmanned Surface Vessel (OUSV) Program.
They are also one of six US Defense contractors engaged to provide the concept design for the US Navy’s Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSV). The LUSV prototype will be an unmanned ship capable of semi-autonomous operation and Austal already has the basis of a design proposal with the EPF-13 large autonomous platform.
In addition, the company is commencing production for Surveyor uncrewed surface vehicles under a partnership with Saildrone Inc used in deep ocean mapping, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“Saildrone is the clear world leader in small uncrewed systems, with a track record of almost 1 million ocean miles under our belt on our 100-strong fleet,” Saildrone founder and chief executive officer Richard Jenkins said in September.
“Austal is leading the way in the large uncrewed sector, pioneering autonomy and reliability of much larger systems capable of carrying much heavier payloads.
“We see these two technologies as extremely complementary. Building these two extremes of size in the same facility, and leveraging Austal’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, will dramatically accelerate our ability to get saildrones into the hands of our customers.”
Austral also has a partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat to train Austral personnel in the manufacture of US Navy nuclear submarine electronic deck modules, and command and control systems modules.
Austal chief executive officer Paddy Gregg said the company has a contract with Newport News Shipbuilding to fabricate aluminium aircraft elevators for two US Navy Ford Class aircraft carriers.
“The new contracts and partnerships demonstrate our growing capabilities across a broad range of naval shipbuilding and support programs in Australia and the US, as we increasingly diversify our revenue base and expand our future growth pathways,” he said.
“This is all underpinned by our modern and agile shipyards that can build in steel and aluminium, small to large vessels, and conventional crewing or autonomous capability.
“Our shipbuilding capacity is complemented by our expanded advanced technology efforts in autonomy and additive manufacturing.
“Over the longer term, our expanding and diversified shipbuilding pipeline has the strong potential to cascade through to our support business, taking us another step forward towards our annual revenue target of $500 million from the support segment by financial year 2027.
“Buoyed by a robust cash balance, we have the financial muscle to continue to invest in the future and achieve long-term profitable growth.”