2018 was a big year for Defence and defence industry, with major projects kicking off across the three branches. In this Top 5, we will cover the most popular stories of the year.
The recent arrival of Australia's first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the turning of the sod for Australia's future submarine and future frigate shipyards in South Australia, the announcement of BAE's Type 26 Global Combat Ship as the successful SEA 5000 bidder, mounting concerns about the delivery time frame, cost and capability of Naval Group's SEA 1000 bid.
Army has also enjoyed some major announcements for LAND 400 Phase 2 and Phase 3 programs to recapitalise and modernise the Army's light armoured vehicle, armoured personnel carrier and infantry fighting vehicle fleets.
Following a hotly contested LAND 400 Phase 2 competition between Rheinmetall and BAE Systems Australia, Defence Connect announced that Rheinmetall had successfully secured the $5.2 billion program with the Commonwealth.
Under the company's offering to the Commonwealth, Rheinmetall will build a majority of the vehicles at the company's specialised Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Queensland.
The first 25 vehicles will be built in Germany in a move Rheinmetall said will support the transfer of technology. Australians will be embedded into teams in Germany to learn the necessary skills before transferring back to Australia for the build of the remaining 200 CRVs.
LAND 400 Phase 2 will also see Rheinmetall partner with Australian steel giants BlueScope and Bisalloy to deliver specialised, armoured steel for the Boxer CRVs.
BlueScope’s Port Kembla steelworks is already working alongside Rheinmetall and Illawarra steel processing company Bisalloy Steel to be in a position to potentially deliver multiple grades of armoured steel for processing and supply to local and export military vehicle programs, including LAND 400 Phase 2.
Testing carried out by Bisalloy, BlueScope and Rheinmetall is part of a certification and qualification process to meet the performance standards of armoured steel required by Rheinmetall. Bisalloy and BlueScope are aiming to be the first companies in the southern hemisphere to be qualified to deliver this steel.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that BAE Systems Australia, in partnership with Lockheed Martin Australia, Saab Australia and ASC Shipbuilding, would be responsible for delivering the next-generation of Australia's naval surface fleet.
In one of Defence’s most hotly-contested competitions in years, BAE Systems with its Type 26, Navantia with an evolved Hobart Class/F-100 and Fincantieri with its FREMM frigate were all considered for the next-generation of Australia's surface fleet.
The new Hunter Class will mark a major increase in the future capability of the RAN and will combine the powerful Aegis combat system, the Australian designed CEAFAR 2 phased array radar and a suite of advanced anti-submarine sensors, allowing the ships to conduct a variety of missions, with sufficient range, endurance and world-leading combat capability throughout the projected life of the vessels.
The new ships – called the Hunter Class – will be built in Australia using Australian steel, and signal a dramatic shift in both combat and industrial capability.
BAE Systems’ Type 26 Global Combat Ship has been locked in competition against Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, with its evolved Hobart Class/F-100, and Italy’s Fincantieri, with its FREMM frigate, to secure the hotly-contested SEA 5000 Future Frigates program.
The Type 26 is currently in production for the UK's Royal Navy, with the program running five years ahead of the Australian SEA 5000 Future Frigates project.
The next-generation frigates will provide the Australian Defence Force with "the highest levels of lethality and deterrence our major surface combatants need in periods of global uncertainty", Turnbull said at the time.
The Type 26 is touted as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-centric vessel and a sound addition to Australia’s naval capabilities. The Hunter Class will have the capability to conduct a variety of missions independently, or as part of a task group, with sufficient range and endurance to operate effectively throughout the region, according to Turnbull.
This agreement will not affect the Offshore Patrol Vessels, Air Warfare Destroyers, or the sustainment of the Collins Class submarines, and will not preclude ASC Group from pursuing future shipbuilding opportunities.
The Hunter Class will begin entering service in the late 2020s replacing the eight Anzac Class frigates, which have been in service since 1996.
A report by Andrew Davies, Michael Shoebridge and James Mugg of ASPI examined the strengths and weaknesses of each vessel in the competition, and identified the four major factors that decided the winning vessel and ultimately the future of Australia's naval warship building industry.
The report argued the Navantia vessel is "almost certainly" the least risky of the three contenders from a project risk perspective, given Navantia would be able to start work relatively quickly as the Air Warfare Destroyer project winds down, a vessel designed by the Spanish company.
The report also suggested the design would offer commonality with the Royal Australian Navy's existing fleet, but said its downside is that the design has not been produced with ASW as its main mission.
The report said the bid from Italian company Fincantieri would be looked upon favourably for its hangar capacity, ASW design and its Australian industry plan, and there is the added benefit that it is already a proven vessel since it is already in service with European navies.
But there is a project risk in working with a new designer that has yet to play a role in the Australian shipbuilding industry, the report found.
ASPI believed the bid from the UK's BAE Systems was considered to be the most modern design, with multiple ASW features on offer. The bid also offered an opportunity for Australian industry to enter a broad global supply chain, given variants of the vessel are on offer to Canada and are currently being produced in the UK.
Australian businesses are already supplying components for Batch 1 of the UK Type 26 program, and more are expected to support construction and equipment manufacture for Batch 2.
HMAS Brisbane is the second of three Hobart Class guided missile destroyers, the most complex and capable warships Australia has operated.
The ship, alongside HMA Ships Hobart and Sydney, will primarily provide air defence for accompanying ships, in addition to land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas.
Australia's Hobart Class ships are based on Navantia's F100 Alvaro De Bazan Class of frigates and incorporate the Lockheed Martin Aegis combat management system with Australian-specific equipment to ensure that the RAN is capable of defending Australia and its national interests well into the next two decades.
The Hobart Class' Spanish counterparts entered service with the Spanish Navy beginning in the early 2000s, working alongside key NATO and US maritime assets.
The Aegis Weapon System, incorporating the state-of-the-art phased array radar, AN/SPY 1D(V), will provide an advanced air defence system capable of engaging enemy aircraft and missiles at ranges in excess of 150 kilometres.
While based upon the Spanish F100s, the Australian vessels incorporate a number of modifications and Australian-specific structural/design and combat system modifications to provide a uniquely Australian surface combatant with international provenance.
You can listen to the full Defence Connect Podcast discussing the top stories covered by Defence Connect through 2018 here.