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Legal eagles support Navy’s $35bn future frigate program

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International legal firm Ashurst has supported the Department of Defence as part of contractual negotiations ahead of the signing of the head contract between the government and prime contractor BAE Systems Australia.

Ashurst advised the Department of Defence on the $35 billion Hunter Class frigate program, which is one of the largest naval shipbuilding projects ever undertaken in Australia.

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BAE Systems Australia and ASC Shipbuilding will deliver nine Hunter Class anti-submarine warfare, guided missile frigates as part of the $35 billion SEA 5000 program. 

Based on the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship, the Hunter Class will replace the Royal Australian Navy's eight Anzac Class frigates when they enter service from the late 2020s. 

The government recently approved the initial project budget of over $6 billion for design activities, including to incorporate the Australian requirements, prototyping and ordering long-lead items.

Ashurst projects partner and team leader Steve McKinney said, "This is a very significant transaction for the Commonwealth – it will re-shape the naval shipbuilding industry in Australia over the next 30 years." 

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The project will support Australia's sovereign capability to build and sustain its naval vessels and implement a continuous build of naval surface ships in Australia, and is anticipated to generate over 6,300 full-time jobs across Australia at its peak in 2028.

The Hunter Class frigates will be built by ASC Shipbuilding at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide. ASC Shipbuilding has become a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia as part of the transaction, with the Commonwealth retaining a "sovereign share" in ASC.

"It is one of the most complex Defence projects undertaken, involving complex IP arrangements, a privatisation of a government business enterprise, infrastructure development, workforce restructuring and IT system development," McKinney said.

The signing of the head contract follows the recent announcement of the combat system integration team of Lockheed Martin Australia and Saab Australia, which will be responsible for integrating the Aegis Combat System, and an Australian tactical interface developed by Saab Australia. 

BAE Systems was named in June this year as the preferred contractor for the $35 billion Hunter Class frigate program. Construction of the frigates will begin at Adelaide’s Osborne Shipyard in 2020, creating and sustaining 4,000 jobs across the nation.

BAE Systems, through ASC Shipbuilding, will deliver a highly capable and versatile multi-mission frigate designed to support anti-submarine warfare, air defence and general-purpose operations anywhere on the world’s oceans.

Legal eagles support Navy’s $35bn future frigate program
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