Even though bids have long closed, competition for the $35 billion Future Frigate program remains heated with contenders proactively advocating for their bids in the public arena.
Last week, BAE Systems Australia chief executive Gabby Costigan said its Type 26 Global Combat Ship was superior to the other contenders: the FREMM proposed by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia’s F-5000.
“The Italians have an old frigate, and the Spanish don’t have an Australian anti-submarine warfare frigate. They are using a different hull and they are going to try to reverse-engineer that ASW capability,” she told a major national daily paper.
On Wednesday, Navantia hit back, taking out a full-page advertisement in the same paper with Navantia Australia chairman Warren King offering a guarantee – in an open letter titled 'A Message from the Chairman of Navantia Australia' – that their offering would be the most advanced vessel, there would be no more job losses in the shipbuilding sector and construction of the first ship would start in 2020.
Bids for the contest have closed, with all documentation provided to the defence evaluation team.
Their recommendation will go to the national security committee of cabinet for a final decision, with the long-awaited announcement expected early in June.
The federal budget on Tuesday revealed initial funding of $52 million in 2018-19 to set up a SEA 5000 office in Adelaide and overseas, and for preliminary design and engineering work.
All three contenders have promised they will build all nine vessels at a new shipyard to be constructed at Osborne, outside Adelaide.
Mr King said their F-5000 was derived from the proven Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD). Construction of the last of three AWD vessels is almost complete.
“Backed by 20 years’ service in the Royal Australian Navy and 30 years’ combined experience in Defence and industry, I am certain Navantia Australia is the right partner to deliver the government’s vision of a sovereign and continuous naval shipbuilding enterprise,” the advertisement read.
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Mr King said Navantia would deliver the most advanced and proven anti-submarine warfare capability, meeting all Navy requirements in a ship with the best general-purpose destroyer capabilities.
In addition, any further shipbuilding job losses in Adelaide would halt as soon as the government announced Navantia would be its partner for the Future Frigate program, he said.