Maximising Australian industry content (AIC) across major Defence projects has been under the microscope in recent months, with the SEA 5000 project copping most of the heat since the tender, released under freedom of information to former senator Nick Xenophon, revealed the government has set a 50 per cent target for AIC.
But Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri has said establishing a sovereign industry that can sustain itself will requirement technology transfer and technology development.
"From Fincantieri's point of view, there's only one way to go further, not just to maximise Australian industry content in the frigate program, but to have an industry that can, as a sovereign basis, design and build ships and all the components therein, and that's the programs of technology transfer," said Fincantieri Australia director Sean Costello.
"They are critical. The technology transfer programs give Australia the ability to autonomously make something itself. Then subsequent to technology transfer, the activities of technology development, different process now, science and research and prototyping and testing trials and iterative steps, you can make things better."
Giving Defence Connect an insight into the Italian company's bid for the $35 billion Future Frigates project, Costello said introducing tools and programs is critical, and has called on small businesses to join the Fincantieri supply chain to secure more work in the global supply chain.
"There's such an emphasis in our offer around bringing into Australia tools, factories, training programs, to literally build up how much we can build as a supply chain. My message to SMEs in Australia, it's good business today if you can get onto the supply chain of the Australian Future Frigate program or any other program, but it's strategic business for you if you can get into our TOT program, because then you're going to be doing more," he said.
As part of achieving technology transfer and technology development for the SEA 5000 project, Fincantieri is offering a mechanical integration facility in the Adelaide shipyard.
"We're proposing a mechanical integration facility. It's modelled on what we have at our Riva Trigosa shipyard in Italy, and it's a large facility. Imagine the size of a shipbuilding integration hall, but instead of ships inside of it, it's full of CAD cam machines, layers, equipment, information technology, and in there, it's the integration or componentry perhaps of rudder stablisation systems, shafts, propellers, azimuth thrusters, all of this really heady gear that you don't want to be transporting around the country, you bring it into your shipyard from a componentry industry and then into the ship itself."
Fincantieri already has test orders in place in Australia and is building cruise ship blocks in Adelaide that will go to Fincantieri's other shipyards across the globe
The Italian shipbuilder has offered its FREMM Frigate for the project, while competitors BAE Systems has offered its Type 26 Global Combat Ships and Navantia has offered its F-500.