Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR June 2017 Contents 14 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter JUNE 2017
LAND 19 PHASE 7B
their service life into the 2030s, when they will be
replaced, along with two survey ships (SEA 1179)
and SEA (2400).
A surprising omission is that there is no mention of
a third replenishment ship, which is foreshadowed
in the Integrated Investment Plan. Hopefully this is
an oversight because AORs are the naval equivalent
of air-to-air refueling – and no air force can have
enough of those.
SOME HINTS ABOUT THE FUTURE
This is a three cornered contest between Navantia
with a modified ‘Hobart’ class; BAE Systems
with the designed but yet to be built Type 26
Global Combat Ship; and Italy’s Fincantieri with
an Australianised version of the FREMM (originally
a joint French-Italian frigate program). All three
designs have their strong points and any of them will
give the RAN a major boost in capability, especially
for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).
Leaving aside their respective technical merits, a
version of the ‘Hobart’ class – a Flight 2 ‘Hobart’ to use
the US system – looks by far the easiest and least risky
to construct. In essence, ASC would be constructing
12 ‘Hobart’ hulls, with consequent economies of
scale. After a rocky start under ASC Mk 1, we are now
seeing huge improvements thanks to ASC Mk 2 – an
enormously improved organisation thanks in no small
part to the injection of a lot of expertise from Navantia.
It looks like Ship 2 will cost 40% less than the first of
class and the third ship in the series at the moment is
tracking to be 30% lower in cost than the second one.
If this could flow on to the nine future frigates based
on the ‘Hobart’ class using the same management
structure and the same supplier base there are further
savings to be gained – which will also flow through to
support and training expenditure.
Another advantage for Navantia / ASC is that the
‘Hobart’ class by definition has been Australianised,
with a myriad of major and minor changes already
paid for by the Australian taxpayer. Most importantly,
these include the use of US missiles and helicopters
something that the shortlisted British and Italian
frigates do not do, preferring European solutions
instead. Ship designers will argue forever about the
relative ease or difficulty that these modifications
require – but the bottom line is that they have already
been made on the ‘Hobart’ class.
Given the perverse decision making on naval
projects that we have touched on, Navantia / ASC
have no particular edge, even though logically they
should have – if we assume that the level of ASW
capability in all three designs is roughly equal.
The change that all three will need to make will be to
incorporate a larger, longer range version of the CEA
phased array technology developed in Australia and
installed on the Anzacs as part of the highly successful
Anzac ASMD upgrade – another private sector project.
The choice of the combat management system on the
Anzacs – developed by Saab Systems in Adelaide
and versions of which are also on the LHDs and future
support ships – or the Lockheed Martin / Raytheon
‘Aegis’-based solution for the AWDs.
The shipbuilding plan mentions that it is the combat
systems for the Future Frigates that will be the main
cost and capability drivers – another little hint that the
vastly more expensive AWD-based system might have
its nose in front. But before people slash their wrists
at this prospect, APDR asked Lockheed Martin what
their approach towards Saab would be if they were
selected as the combat system integrator (CSI):
An Aegis solution integrated with an Australian
interface, similar to the Hobart Class, will maximise
Australian industrial participation. If Aegis is chosen
as the combat system for the future frigates there
will be significant participation from Saab and other
Australian industry providers. Through our existing
tech transfer agreement and further LM investment –
Aegis Integration, Test and Sustainment activities will
be performed here in Australia by local industry. For
example, the CSI role will be performed by Australian
industry and all new weapon and sensor interfaces will
be developed locally.
The blueprint has several flaws – not the least of
which is the omission of the rapid development
of a New Generation Collins with AIP, a VLS
cell and a vastly improved propulsion system
(though mercifully the old one is now working
satisfactorily). This could be fast tracked while the
‘Shortfin Barracuda’ continues to be developed
as a long-term solution. To this can be added the
illogical and unjustified decision to leave ASC under
Government ownership. This is presumably because
the Department of Finance bureaucrats and their
Minister have discovered that they actually like
the idea of owning an asset that makes a positive
contribution to the Australian economy – even
though this is being done at the expense of the
taxpayer. Having the ability to appoint ex-politicians
to the Board is presumably another reason for
keeping hold of it.
The wisdom of dictating a single facility build for
future warships – effectively ruling out an Australia-
wide modular approach – is also questionable.
However, the great strength of the long overdue
blueprint is that it provides further certainty about the
future of submarine and surface ship construction
and it is a vital contribution to establishing a national
enterprise in support of a rolling naval build program
that will serve Australia well for decades to come.
For this alone the authors deserve to be promoted
and showered with awards and medals.
HMAS Sheean's berthing party as the
submarine approaches Fleet Base West.
Credit: CoA / Bradley Darvil
29/05/2017 3:04 PM
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