The Global Combat Ship – Australia is based on BAE Systems’ Type 26 frigate, one of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warships, which the company is currently constructing in Glasgow. Once contracted, the new ships, to be called the Hunter Class, will be built in South Australia by an Australian workforce using Australian suppliers from every state and territory.
Bringing the ships together will be the joint BAE/ASC workforce at the Adelaide-based shipyards responsible for delivering the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers and the Collins Class submarines. In order to maximise the efficacy of the workforce and to ensure that the key defence project is delivered on time and on budget, BAE will be bringing the concept of a 'digital shipyard' to Australia for the first time.
The 'digital shipyard' concept will see BAE facilitate the transfer of intellectual property and technical data, including the digital ship design that has been optimised for the production of the new Hunter Class, combined with all the naval shipbuilding processes tailored to the specific requirements of the ASC shipyard in South Australia.
The digital shipyard concept will ensure that every aspect of the ship during the design and build and throughout its service life is live and accessible to the crew as well as all those involved in the maintenance and upgrades of the fleet and approved suppliers. People will be connected in their place of work to assured, readily understandable information and processes to evidence-based working in real-time.
Digitisation will also bring the ‘ship to life’ during its service life. Intelligent systems, on board and linked to those ashore, will monitor the performance of the ship and its systems, allowing ship’s staff to focus on the right tasks and ensuring that the right parts and specialist help are available before they are needed.
When first announcing the digital shipyards initiative in 2017, then BAE Systems chief executive, Glynn Phillips said, "It will also be the first time in Australia, where a ship’s systems will have the ‘intelligence’ to report on its own performance and maintenance needs and have the ability to order both the maintenance and parts required prior to docking."
BAE's digital shipyard will include an inventory of parts, including cost and acoustic signature, suppliers and their details, providing Australian industry the opportunity to improve upon all parts and systems used in the construction of the Hunter Class frigates.
The SEA 5000 project and the supporting digitisation of the facilities in South Australia is designed in line with the government's key objective of developing a sovereign shipbuilding capability for Australia, which, as announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, will see ASC become a subsidiary of BAE throughout the life of the construction phase.
This subsidiary status will ensure that BAE Systems is fully responsible and accountable for the timely delivery of the frigates and guarantees the work will be carried out by Australian workers and create Australian jobs, the Prime Minister said.
The Commonwealth government will retain a sovereign share in ASC Shipbuilding while BAE manages the program. At the end of the program the Commonwealth will resume complete ownership of ASC Shipbuilding, thereby ensuring the retention in Australia of intellectual property, a highly-skilled workforce and the associated equipment.
This will ensure that, by the conclusion of the frigate build, ASC Shipbuilding will be a strategic national asset capable of independently designing, developing and leading the construction of large, complex naval warships.
“Alongside the world class shipbuilding facility the Australian government is developing, the digital shipyard will ensure that a sustainable naval shipbuilding industry is created that will contribute to the nation’s security and long-term prosperity," Phillips said at the time.