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Surface fleet review response on hold until 2024, says Conroy

HMAS Anzac and JS Izumo sail in company with HMAS Canberra during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023. Photo: LSIS Susan Mossop

The federal government will hold off publicly responding to the independent analysis of surface combatant fleet capability until next year, according to Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy.

The federal government will hold off publicly responding to the independent analysis of surface combatant fleet capability until next year, according to Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy.

Review findings for the “Surface Fleet Review”, recommended by the Defence Strategic Review, are expected to be completed and a report delivered to government before the end of September this year.

The findings are anticipated to provide insight into Royal Australian Navy’s surface combatant fleet size, structure, and composition to complement capabilities provided by conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines.

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“It’s on track to be delivered to government next week, and then we’ll work through its recommendations,” Minister Conroy said while speaking to the ABC earlier this week.

“It’s an incredibly complex piece of work, detailing recommendations around platforms that cost tens of billions of dollars.

“It really will drive the structure of the Royal Australian Navy for 30, if not 50 years to come, and government will take our time working through its recommendations, and we will respond to it, and we’re aiming to release a response in the first couple of months of next year at the latest.”

That response in 2024 would also coincide with the first commissions of the Royal Australian Navy Arafura Class offshore patrol vessel, designed to replace current Armidale and Cape Class patrol boats.

Minister Conroy also said interoperability will be a critical feature of maritime systems working into the future, in particular, the possibility of interoperability with close neighbour, New Zealand.

“The New Zealand process is they’re still looking at their fleet; that is due basically to reach the end of life in mid-2030s. They’re looking at what their options are,” he said.

“We’re very focused on where we can operate together, so interoperability is a critical feature.

“If there’s opportunities to build platforms together, if they eventuate, then we’re happy to look at it.

“I’m really proud that Australia built the ANZAC Class frigate for both Australia and New Zealand, and that was a very successful project.”

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