Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR April 2016 Contents Asia Pacific Defence Reporter APR 2016 37
In August 2015, following repeated warnings
of a looming shipbuilding “valley of death” of
job losses following the completion of the two
Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Docks and the
Air Warfare Destroyer construction programs if no
naval shipbuilding contracts follow, former Prime
Minister Tony Abbott and then-Defence Minister
Kevin Andrews announced plans to bring for ward the
schedule for the SEA 5000 program.
Under the revised plan, the first cutting of steel for
SEA 5000 will be brought for ward by three years,
with a continuous build to begin in 2018 following a
Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP). It was also
confirmed that the frigates will be built in Adelaide,
which has been seen in some quarters as a politically-
driven move to shore up marginal Liberal Party seats
in South Australia.
Speaking at the Pacific 2015 Maritime Exposition
in October, the RAN’s Head of Maritime Systems
Rear Admiral Mark Purcell called the revised timeline
“ tight but not unachievable”. He added that this gives
the RAN “six years from cutting steel in 2020 to
bring on the first Future Frigate”, with HMAS Anzac
reaching its expected life-of-type in 2026.
The long awaited Defence White Paper released
in February 2016 provided yet more clarity for SEA
5000, with the announcement that the number of
frigates will be increased to nine. Along with the
Collins-class submarine replacement, SEA 5000
is expected to be the major driver of the increased
defence expenditure Australia is undertaking as
envisaged by the DWP, which will increase by $29.9
billion over the next decade “to fund investment in
support of the future force”.
The accompanying Defence Integrated Investment
Plan (DIIP) accompanying the DWP breaks down
the costs of the program, earmarking $ 30 billion for
the evaluation, design and construction of the ships,
with weapons to outfit the ship expected to cost $ 3-4
billion while Electronic Attack and Countermeasures
expected to come up to another $2-3 billion.
The DWP also confirmed that the government
of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who replaced
Abbott in September 2015, has recommitted to the
continuous build plan for the ships unveiled by his
predecessor. It reaffirmed that the frigates will be built
in Adelaide, with the Offshore Patrol Vessels under
Project SEA 1180 to be built in Australia at an as-yet
While this commitment to build the ships locally
has pleased industry, analysts have warned that the
local shipbuilding industry could find itself stretched
by three major shipbuilding projects being undertaken
concurrently. Andrew Davies of the Australian
Strategic Policy Institute, who acted as an outside
consultant on the DWP, noted that Australia would
be “taking on an enormous project-management
challenge" in such a scenario.
The new, tightened timeline for the pre-construction
phase of the frigates will only add to the risk. According
to a Defence spokesperson in response to questions
posed by APDR, the CEP for SEA 5000 had started
in November 2015, with an analysis of alternatives to
be conducted to first identify the mature ship design
candidate platforms available in the market for further
consideration by Government.
The spokesperson added that:
“Defence has engaged the RAND Corporation
for the market assessment of the Future Frigates”
with a view to helping “inform Defence’s analysis
and recommendations to Government”. First Pass
consideration is now scheduled for later this year,
which will narrow the field of designs for further
development as part of the CEP.
The new frigates will be equipped with an integrated
underwater warfare suite that includes long-range
active towed-array sonar, embark a combination of
naval combat helicopters and maritime Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as well as a maritime-based
land-attack cruise missile capability.
In June 2014, the government decided to bring
forward preliminary design work on the Future Frigate,
including studies to determine if a modified Navantia
F100 full form, or at the very least, some of the hull
blocks being fabricated in Australian shipyards for the
AWD program were feasible for use in SEA 5000.
It had been reported in 2015 that the study had
been completed, with Navantia saying at Pacific
2015 that with modifications, its F100 frigate design
would meet SEA 5000’s requirements. Navantia has
submitted the final report to defence, which had asked
the company to look at 18 areas of potential change.
Defence had mandated that the studies include the
Australian-designed CEA Technologies CEAFAR and
CEAMOUNT phased array radars, along with Saab’s
9LV Combat System, both of which are an integral part
of the highly successful Anzac-class Anti-Ship Missile
Defence (ASMD) upgrade program.
As APDR had reported back in 2014, it would
not be out of the question to scale up both the CEA
radars and 9LV to provide the Future Frigate with an
area defence capability, in conjunction with a missile
like the Raytheon SM-2 surface-to-air missile, which
has already been selected for use in the AWDs. At
the time, Defence said that it was studying multiple
capability options for the Future Frigate, and “a growth
path to SM-2 is part of these feasibility considerations”.
The addition of SM-2 capability will fit nicely into a
desire for the Future Frigate to complement the AWDs
and acquire the capability to provide area defence for
high value naval assets like the Canberra-class LHDs,
and freeing up the AWD from some lower level air
defence missions if the Future Frigate is capable of
Another SEA 5000 minimum requirement is the
capability for the embarkation of two helicopters,
which is something that a modified AWD hullform will
need to be adapted to if this was the path chosen given
that the AWDs will embark only a single helicopter.
The helicopter that will operate off the frigates will be
the Lockheed-Martin MH-60R Romeo currently being
operated by the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. Australia has
ordered 24 Romeos that are in the process of being
delivered, and are expected to be completed in 2018.
The Navy is also exploring the use and integration of
UAVs on its ships, and the frigates will utilise them
when in service.
Commodore Colin Lawrence, Director General, Navy
Aviation Systems Branch of the Helicopters, Tactical
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Guided Weapons
Division (HUG-D) in the Capability Acquisition and
Sustainment Group, also revealed during Pacific 2015
that a Navy Minor Project is looking at acquiring and
developing an interim UAV capability for the ships.
This interim UAV capability will be deployable but
unlikely to be wholly integrated with the ships and will
follow the RAN’s Insitu/Boeing ScanEagle trials which
will allow the RAN to develop a capability roadmap to
continue to develop the service’s understanding of
UAV operations at sea. Project SEA 129 Phase 6 will
then deliver a UAV system integrated into the overall
combat systems of the frigates, which could happen
only years after the first ships are in ser vice.
Both fixed and rotary-wing UAVs will be evaluated
for the interim UAV project as well as SEA 129 Phase
6. CDRE Lawrence emphasised that the program will
be driven by technology and the adaptability of the
chosen platform to evolve with new technology, stating
that “it’s the mission systems that we can fit to these
things that will make or break the program” during the
inaugural Naval Aviation Symposium at Pacific 2015.
The U.S -based consultancy R AND, which had been
previously tasked by Defence to develop an enterprise-
level plan for naval shipbuilding for consideration by
the government in 2014, also looked at the second
option of modifying an existing Military Off-the-Shelf
(MOTS) design for the SEA 5000 requirement.
In its final report, RAND noted that there could be
additional risks in going to the MOTS option, and
expects that it could take up to two years more – seven
years as opposed to five – if MOTS was chosen over
the modified AWD hull option.
The longer lead time will be due to the evaluation and
selection of a MOTS design, contract negotiations and
31/03/2016 6:46 PM
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