Bottom line: the best frigate is the one you have. The best frigate will ultimately be the one we select and build because they will become ours. Once the choice is made we will learn more about the selected design than any other – we will see the benefits, we will find the flaws, and we will all manage.
In a few months after the decision we will forget the two we didn’t pick and many of us will move on to the thousands of days of a life’s work that will comprise a continuous shipbuilding program.
If you had to make this decision you wouldn’t worry overly much about the design; a design is just an idea that is brought into reality by practical people who will go to work each day trying to do their best. Designs can be changed, adapted, improved and ultimately, made sovereign through building up Australian experience and skill in the translation of ideas into the reality of evolved ship designs over time. I think we can all “trust the captain, trust the crew” and let our defence and political leaders weigh up the choices as they see them – whatever is chosen, by virtue of what we do after that – will, by our hard work and smarts, be the best.
Which would you pick? What would your criteria be?
A frigate is a workhorse. It needs to defend itself and others if possible. It needs to move great distances, reconfigure itself for a variety of missions and evolve to face new threats. The ship needs to provide a suitable home and workplace for the true capability – the sailors of the Royal Australian Navy who will sail in them.
After all – you could probably put our sailors to sea in a row boat and they would still be a deadly force and bulwark of the nation. Put a modern frigate in their hands, add those sovereign Australian design concepts through the continuous build program, local innovation and skill (Anzac anti-ship missile defence, anyone?) and continuous capability development through time and we will all sleep safe at night sure of the protection afforded us by our fleet and our industry.
Despite the manoeuvring and positioning of the companies during tendering, all these frigate designs will support our nation and our navy to get a good class of ship and to get the job done. Will the deciding factor be the industrial package? The anti-submarine capability offered? Will it be a case of “we know the people, we know the product”? Now, I’m prepared to be corrected (and expect to be by a tenderers representative looking to raise their profile – go for it, this is a free country) but at the end of the decision process there are only two factors:
- Best for the Navy
- Best for the nation
After the decision let’s all just pause for a minute, affirm the truth in the final decision that it is the best (based on the reasoning above) and then start working as hard as we can on making the design and build our own, then I think we will be in a good place.
So, bless all our sailors who will sail in these frigates of whatever design.
Peter Behrendt is the Managing Director of BMT Defence and Security, Australia. Peter has a strong record of exceptional business growth and hands-on leadership in the areas of Combat and Maritime Systems, within both the naval and civil maritime domain in a global context (Belgium, Canada, India, Sweden).
Peter spent more than a decade forging an accomplished Australian Naval career. He moved to the private sector in 2008 with Saab and spent nearly 15 years in various senior positions in Australia, Canada and Europe. He joined BMT in 2017.
BMT is an international design, engineering and risk management consultancy, working principally in the defence, energy and environment, marine risk and insurance, maritime transport, and ports and logistics sectors.