The defence minister has commented on reports the government is considering the acquisition of the small warships amid concerns over the Arafura Class OPV project.
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According to reports in The Australian, the Defence Strategic Review is considering a recommendation for a new fleet of corvette-style warships to enhance the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) firepower.
Up to 12 vessels would be ordered, potentially equipped with missiles, canons, and anti-submarine strike capability.
The project would reportedly cost the government between $5-6 billion.
This comes amid continued concern over the Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels’ (OPVs) lack of strike power.
The Arafura OPVs — built by Luerssen Australia — are set to replace the Armidale Class patrol boats, with one vessel already launched.
According to newly released data from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the $3.7 billion Arafura Class program is also approximately one year behind schedule.
But when asked if the Albanese government is considering a move for corvette-style warships, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles said cabinet would await the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review.
“The Defence Strategic Review is undertaking the assessment of what the shape of our Defence Force should be given a very different set of strategic circumstances which the country now faces,” he said.
“So, I'm not going to pre-empt the work that they are going to do.”
However, the minister went on to acknowledge the need for increased investment in defence capability, given the deteriorating geostrategic environment.
“We do see that, given the strategic threat that the country faces, we will have a rising defence budget going forward,” he added.
“It’s why it’s really important that every dollar of defence spending is managed in an excellent way. It’s why it’s really important that the quality of the defence spend is put first and foremost in the thinking of government and that we focus on that, and we are completely committed to that.”
Recommendations are due to be handed down in March 2023 in time for the National Security Committee of cabinet.