The shipbuilding prime has offered to expand Australia’s fleet of Hobart Class destroyers to help address a potential capability gap.
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According to reports originally published in The Australian, Navantia Australia has proposed to develop three additional Hobart Class air warfare destroyers (AWDs) for the Royal Australian Navy by 2030.
The company has said the program would cost an estimated $6 billion – $2 billion for each vessel.
Navantia Australia managing director Israel Lozano Barragan told The Australian the additional vessels would help “bridge an important capability gap” ahead of the delivery of the RAN’s Hunter Class frigates under Project SEA 5000, set to replace the ageing Anzac Class fleet.
Barragan added the additional Hobart Class destroyers could be built locally, in Spain or via a “hybrid model” across both countries.
This, he said, would depend on the capacity of South Australia’s Osborne shipyard.
“This flexibility is given to protect the Hunter Class frigates’ production program,” he added.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, responded to reports during an appearance before the Senate foreign affairs, defence, and trade legislation committee on Wednesday (6 April), but stressed no formal offer had been made to Defence.
“I currently have in place a very robust surface combat transition plan, which does not take into account any contemplation of additional air warfare destroyers,” he said.
“So, at this point in time, it is something that is being speculated within the media regarding advice or unsolicited advice being provided by Navantia.”
VADM Noonan added that he has not provided any advice to government regarding the potential acquisition of additional AWDs.
The SEA 4000 project achieved final operating capability (FOC) in August, with the last of three Hobart Class destroyers, HMAS Sydney, delivered to the RAN after passing test and evaluation trials off the coast of the US and Canada, which involved missile firings against low-altitude and supersonic targets.
Approximately 5,000 Australians are estimated to have worked on the air warfare destroyer program over the past decade, with over 2,700 unique suppliers supporting the development of HMAS Sydney.
HMAS Sydney has joined sister vessels HMA ships Hobart and Brisbane, in primarily providing air defence for accompanying ships, land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas.
Based upon the Spanish F100s, the Australian variants incorporate a number of modifications and Australian-specific structural/design and combat system modifications to provide a uniquely Australian surface combatant with international provenance.
The delivery was executed by the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance – a co-operative comprising the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), ASC Shipbuilding, AWD Shipbuilding and Raytheon Australia.
The Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group contributed to risk mitigation activities, acceptance testing and planning for sea trials to demonstrate and quantify the level of capability achieved by the project.