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Shipyard of the future to boost critical Navy frigate program

The digital shipyard concept is transforming the way BAE Systems Australia is delivering the Royal Australian Navy’s Hunter Class frigates by reshaping decades of shipbuilding tradition and leveraging new technologies to deliver the future. 

The digital shipyard concept is transforming the way BAE Systems Australia is delivering the Royal Australian Navy’s Hunter Class frigates by reshaping decades of shipbuilding tradition and leveraging new technologies to deliver the future. 

Technology and digital architecture is playing a central role in supporting BAE Systems Australia’s design and delivery of the Royal Australian Navys fleet of nine, next-generation, anti-submarine warfare Hunter Class frigates — at the forefront of this is the Hunter Digital Simulation (HUDS) tool, which will help to optimise the program schedule through automated decision-making logic.

HUDS allows for rapid development of shipbuilding scenarios that are used for daily shipyard workstation analyses or development of future bids. This will support shipbuilding scenario planning which has traditionally been done manually using Excel, PowerPoint and paper cut-outs.


A manual scenario analysis that would typically take two weeks to develop can be processed by HUDS in as little as two minutes. 

BAE Systems Australia – Maritime managing director Craig Lockhart explained that the business is committed to advancing naval shipbuilding and delivering a quality frigate that can quickly and reliably adapt to Australia’s future defence needs.

“The Osborne Naval shipyard is innovating every day and is at the cutting-edge of Industry 4.0. We are always looking for opportunities to evolve and speed-up the build of the Hunter Class frigates without compromising quality,” Lockhart explained. 

The Australian technology developed as part of the digital shipyard simulation tool has sparked interest around the world with enquiries being made by shipbuilding teams in the United Kingdom — further driving collaboration and knowledge sharing between the two Type 26 shipbuilding programs. 

Lockhart added, “BAE Systems Australia is also providing our workforce of more than 1,000 employees with advanced manufacturing skills which will hold them in good stead for the jobs of the future.”

The digital shipyard has been designed using software typically used in fast-paced manufacturing environments, like car manufacturing. The tool, developed by BAE Systems Australia, can be applied to other industries including air and land industries.  

First Assistant Secretary Major Surface Combatants and Combat Systems Sheryl Lutz said the Osborne Naval Shipyard is at the cutting edge of innovation for a digital shipyard, expanding on Lockhart’s comments, saying, “Defence welcomes any opportunity to enhance productivity and speed up the build using advanced processes. 

“The HUDS tool makes it easier to exploit the data that helps us understand the utilisation of the shipyard and apply key changes. We strive to be agile with how we apply new technology, and the Hunter Class frigate program operates at the forefront of digital shipbuilding,” Lutz explained. 

In June 2018, the Commonwealth government announced BAE Systems Australia as the successful tender for the $45 billion SEA 5000 Future Frigate program.

The nine Hunter Class frigates will be based on the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship currently under construction for the Royal Navy and will replace the eight Anzac Class frigates when they enter service beginning in the late 2020s. The Hunter Class is billed as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) centric vessel delivering an advanced ASW capability to the Royal Australian Navy at a time when 50 per cent of the world’s submarines will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region.

BAE Systems Australia announced that it had selected Lockheed Martin Australia and Saab Australia as combat systems integration industry partners, responsible for delivering the Australian-designed CEAFAR 2 Active Phased Array Radar, Lockheed Martin designed Aegis combat management system, and Saab Australia 9LV tactical interface.

BAE Systems expects the Australian industry content (AIC) for the Hunter Class build will be 65–70 per cent, which will create and secure thousands of jobs for decades.

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. SEA 5000 is expected to support over 500 Australian businesses that have been pre-qualified to be part of the Hunter Class supply chain, with the Australian steel industry in particular, benefiting from the 48,000 tonnes of steel required to build the ships. 

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