Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has taken the opportunity to reaffirm the strategic and industrial relationship between Australia and the UK during his Industry Dialogue with UK counterparts.
Minister Pyne was joined by SA Premier Steven Marshall and has been in the UK as part of the fifth Defence Industry Dialogue with Gavin Williamson, the UK Secretary of Defence, which was introduced to develop a structure around the relationship between Australia and Great Britain in terms of defence industry.
The SEA 5000 Future Frigate program, which was successfully won by BAE Systems with their Type 26 Global Combat Ship – Australia, to be known as the Hunter Class when in service with the Royal Australian Navy, was one of the highlights of the dialogue.
Minister Pyne said, "We’re particularly pleased that the response to choosing BAE to build the Future Frigates in Adelaide at Osborne, in the Premier’s state, has been so well received here in Great Britain and also in Australia."
Australia will not be building the new Hunter Class alone, as the UK has already laid down it's own variant of the Type 26, providing improved avenues for industry collaboration between BAE Systems in the UK and BAE Systems Australia, and it's subcontractors, which know have the opportunity to become integrated members of a global supply chain to support the Type 26 program.
In the two weeks since the announcement, BAE has already begun announcing that they intend to increase their workforce in Australia by a thousand because of winning the SEA 5000 program. Minister Pyne said these ships, which will be built in Australia will be part of BAE Systems' digital shipyard, will ensure that when the project is finished, Australia has a sovereign shipbuilding capability.
Premier Marshall endorsed the comments made by Minister Pyne about the impact that the Hunter Class will have on industry and employment in South Australia, following his own recent visit to the BAE Systems shipyards in Scotland, where the Royal Navy's own Type 26 are beginning t take shape.
"I’ll just briefly say that obviously the federal government’s decision to award the contract for the Future Frigates to BAE presented us with a great opportunity in South Australia," he said.
"I got over here as quickly as possible to meet with BAE, to meet with their supply chain, to visit the shipyard where they’re building the very first of the Type 26 up in Scotland. And look, I think that the opportunity that has been provided from this Commonwealth contract is absolutely incredible and we’re going to make sure that we grab that opportunity with both hands from South Australia."
The Premier went further, stating his support for the Commonwealth government's sovereign shipbuilding plan, citing the recent success of the Air Warfare Destroyers following years of floundering and the upcoming OPV and Future Submarine programs.
Minister Pyne elaborated on the key role industry collaboration will play between Australia and the UK as both navies bring the next-generation anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates into operation.
"I’ll be talking with the Brits about making sure that project is a success. There’s enormous good will on both sides of the table about making sure that that project is a success: driving jobs, driving sophisticated advanced manufacturing, research and development, but most importantly, of course, the capability for the Navy that means we’ll have one of the most potent anti-submarine warfare fleets in the Indo-Pacific – the hunter killer of the seas, the anti-submarine warfare frigate, making us one of the most potent and lethal navies in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.
Minister Pyne also took the opportunity to respond, at least in part, to some of the recent comments made by former chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin AC, regarding the militarisation of the South China Sea and questions around who Australia's new ASW frigates would be targeting.
"The Australian government’s policy on the South China Sea is that we regard it as one of the most important water ways for our nation for our economic and defence interests and we intend to continue to exercise our international rights to traverse the South China Sea. We support the claims of the Philippines and other countries in the South China area who’ve won in the international courts the right to have China not militarise the South China Sea," he said.