Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Dec16/Jan17 Contents close to $40 billion worth of investment in Australia’s
future naval capabilities and our naval shipbuilding
industry. They will directly secure more than 2,500
jobs for decades to come. They will also generate
thousands of additional jobs with suppliers.’
Graeme Dunk, posting on the Australian Strategic
policy Institute’s The Strategist blog posed the question
‘Naval shipbuilding: how continuous is continuous?’ In
seeking to answer his own question he looked at the
various skills required at different stages of shipbuilding
wondered how they would be continuously employed.
His conclusion was that this would require multiple
ships under construction at one time. To do otherwise
would create gaps where particular skills would not
To an extent, having the OPV construction program
running at the same time as formulated in the RAND
report will help, but it seems inescapable that with a
construction cycle of a new surface ship every 24-30
months being optimal for an efficient shipyard, some
skill utilisation gaps will appear.
This is where a highly skilled and experienced naval
shipbuilder like HII can offer help, but the economics of
the construction cycle logic appear clear.
On the day HII announced the establishment of a
Canberra office, Defence Industry Minister Christopher
Pyne issued a typically enthusiastic media release
stating ‘The fact that Huntington Ingalls Industries,
one of the world’s leading shipbuilders, is setting up
leader in defence industry, whether that be workforce
development, fleet sustainment or naval vessel design
‘Our defence industry will be an important part of
our economy for decades to come, particularly as we
transform into high end, advanced manufacturing.’
When APDR interviewed Jeff McCray, vice-president
business development, HII Australia, the first question
put to him was about whether or not HII were here to
buy a shipyard. He said “Not at this stage. We have
two major shipyards that build the vast majority of the
US Navy’s ships - and both are in the continental US.
The role we see ourselves playing is as an advisor on
shipyard design and work flow management in addition
to workforce development.”
In other words, what HII have to offer is advice and
support in the economics of running Australian naval
shipyards as well as developing the skilled employees
to work in them.
HII SHIPYARDS IN THE UNITED
At Newport News, Virginia, HII has built over 30 aircraft
carriers including designing and building all 10 of
the Nimitz Class nuclear powered carriers. Currently
they are building the next generation of carriers with
GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) due to be commissioned
within the next few months and JOHN F. KENNEDY
(CVN 79) now in an advanced state of construction.
HII also carry out the 44 month Carrier Refuelling
Complex Overhaul (RCOH) on Nimitz Class carriers,
just once in a carrier’s planned 50 year life. According
to HII ‘This includes refuelling the nuclear reactors, as
well as significant repair, upgrade and modernization
work.’ When a nuclear carrier’s end-of-life has been
reached, the nuclear reactors are de-activated at
Newport News Shipyard.
They state that carrier fleet services are provided by
HII wherever there is a need globally. This can include
maintenance and modernisation work at Newport
News, their ship repair yard in San Diego, or in other
naval bases around world. These locations potentially
include Australia in the future.
Over 60 submarines have been built at their Newport
News shipyard over the past 40 years. Currently they
have completed 12 Virginia Class nuclear submarines
and are working on a further 13.
Meantime at their Pascagoula Shipyard in Mississippi
they are the builder-of-record for 35 Aegis DDG51
class of guided missile destroyers, with 28 already
delivered and a further five currently under construction,
with two more ordered. At this yard they also build LHA
large deck amphibious ships and LPD amphibious
assault ships for the Marines.
SUPPORT OFFERED FOR
So with ASC being divided into three parts, the first
devoted to naval shipbuilding and more especially
two OPVs from 2018 and then nine Future Frigates
from 2020, the second for Collins Class submarine
sustainment, and the third shipbuilding infrastructure
(read construction site for Australia’s Future
Submarines), has a firm like HII got a lot to offer
Australia’s continuous shipbuilding program?
For a start, Defence’s $50 billion Future Submarine
program is building conventional diesel-electric
submarines, the Shortfin Barracuda, based on
DCNS’s experience and capabilities in building nuclear
Barracuda subs. These are smaller than the latest
US subs, but Defence might have HII consulting on
shipyard layout (which the Government will own) and
workflow, together with recruitment and training of
suitable staff to work on this project.
The $35 billion Future Frigate design and construction
at Techport, Adelaide, offers the possibility of having HII
as overall project manager, supervising the shipyard
and directing the activities of the chosen shipbuilder
on behalf of Defence. This could also include workforce
The West Australian OPV build program is likely to
be of less interest to HII because there are already
two extremely competent shipbuilders in WA – BAE
Systems and Austal - and the design work will have
US NAVY SUSTAINMENT
While HII has much to offer Australia’s continuous
shipbuilding program, there is also a strategic reason
for their presence. HII’s sustainment operations in
Japan and Taiwan are very close to China.
As Mike Smith, HII’s corporate executive vice-
president, strategy and development, told the author
‘In terms of overseas fleet sustainment of US Navy
vessels, we have adopted an “asset light” model where
we assemble bespoke flyaway teams with the requisite
skills and gear to perform specific maintenance and
repair activities on any platform anywhere in the
region. However, regionally based solutions need to
be explored when those repairs are more extensive.
Australia could potentially play a key role in that.’
The Government’s welcome to HII shows that they
are seeking expert help to ensure the continuous
shipbuilding program performs to quality, schedule and
cost in producing the RAN’s required new capabilities.
How much work HII might get in the various
shipbuilding projects is unknown at this stage. Whether
or not Australia offers a skilled shipbuilding base for
damaged USN ships is not possible to tell. But of
all the potential locations for this work, which does
not necessitate return to a U.S. shipyard, Australia is
probably a better bet than nearly every other potential
site in the Western Pacific or Indian Ocean.
The arrival of HII offers an experienced, capable
partner for domestic naval and commercial shipbuilding.
In proposing a continuous build program for this small number of
surface vessels, unless it also opens up significant and continuing
export sales, there is a schedule problem.
Asia Pacific Defence Reporter DEC-JAN 2017 17
15/12/2016 1:03 PM
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