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Hunter Class frigates pass critical design review milestone

In a major milestone for the embattled program, BAE has confirmed that the Hunter Class frigates have successfully completed a preliminary design review (PDR).

In a major milestone for the embattled program, BAE has confirmed that the Hunter Class frigates have successfully completed a preliminary design review (PDR).

The review, which started in July, is a technical assessment that ensures the design is operationally effective and underpins the more detailed work that will now be undertaken.

Since the announcement of the Hunter Class program in June 2018, the workforce has grown with now more than 1,800 people working on the Hunter program, which is transforming Australia’s shipbuilding industry by helping build a world-class, continuous naval shipbuilding capability.

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Craig Lockhart, BAE Systems Australia’s managing director - maritime, welcomed the announcement and the milestone, saying, “The Hunter Class Frigate Program has come a long way from initial head contract signing to the acceptance of the shipyard, start of prototyping work, and commencement of the first schedule protection block.”

The program is described as a truly national endeavour, with companies from across Australia working with BAE Systems to support the manufacture of the first batch of three Hunter Class frigates.

Lockhart added, “The completion of the preliminary design review is another significant step forward for the program, which is developing Australia’s sovereign industrial capability and is growing the nation’s engineering workforce.”

BAE Systems anticipates that the multi-billion-dollar program will create and sustain more than 5,000 jobs at BAE Systems and the wider Australian defence supply chain, including up to 1,000 apprentice and graduate roles.

Through this national endeavour, we are committed to maximising opportunities for Australian industry. More than 80 contracts have been placed with Australian businesses to support the program,” Lockhart said.

This announcement comes following the unveiling of a significantly “upgunned” variant of the Hunter Class frigate, presented by BAE Systems Australia at the recent Indo Pacific 2023 International Maritime Exposition and Seapower Conference in Sydney.

This new proposed variant would see an expansion of the Hunter’s fire power, with an expanded vertical launch system (VLS) capability and the standard 32 VLS growing to 96 VLS with 16 Naval Strike Missile packs also added, and the further potential to grow to 128 with the removal of the five-inch main deck gun.

Lockhart explained to Defence Connect that the “new” proposal would leverage the extensive design work already done on the Hunter Class program, to provide a warship with at least 80 per cent commonality with the “standard” frigate, thus reducing risk to both the government and Navy.

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.

Centred around the AN/SPY-1 radar, Aegis is a fully integrated combat management system, providing full 360-degree, 3D-tracking capacity. Aegis is capable of simultaneously defending against attack from land targets, submarines, and surface ships while automatically protecting the fleet against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.

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 who 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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