BAE Systems Australia has surprised commentators and critics with a newly upgraded model version of the Hunter Class frigate on display at the Indo Pacific 2023 International Maritime Exposition.
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The multi-billion-dollar Hunter Class Frigate Program (HCFP) has drawn significant criticism from industry commentators as BAE provides nine frigates optimised for anti-submarine warfare for the Royal Australian Navy.
These ships would replace the current Anzac Class frigates based on the UK’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship.
The new design unveiled at the show replaces the standard mission bay and instead adds an additional 64 MK41 vertical launch cells and as many as eight more Naval Strike Missiles; the ships fielding a total of 96 VLS and 16 NSMs.
Late last month, the company called for confidence in the Hunter Class, rebuffing recent scrutiny in a public statement from maritime managing director Craig Lockhart.
“This ‘go-to’ narrative far too often comes from those who haven’t visited the shipyard or have the context around the program,” he said.
“While public scrutiny is to be expected, and rightly so, on any program that comes at expense to the taxpayer, I find that Australia is unique in how it publicly debates its defence programs.
“These are dedicated people who are working tirelessly to provide a capability; specifically selected by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), that will provide Australia with a world-leading, highly capable and versatile multi-mission warship.”
The Australian federal government previously signed the contract with ASC Shipbuilding (now known as BAE Systems Maritime Australia) in December 2018 to build the Hunter Class frigates under Project SEA 5000 Phase 1.