06 April 2015
Options for new powerful new frigates is with the same type of hull with Air Warfare Destroyer with a particular focus on anti-submarine warfare and theatre-level anti-submarine operations (image : Aus AWD)
To deal with the growing threat of submarines in the region, the Abbott government is considering buying or building large and powerful new frigates for the navy.
One of several options being considered is to build the frigates on the same type of hull as has been built in Australia for the Air Warfare destroyer. That would produce a 5000 tonne-plus frigate. The current Anzac class is 3600 tonnes.
Having the frigates built in Australia has been seen as one possible way to bridge the so-called “valley of death” faced by shipyards when their current work runs out.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has stressed that the priority would be to ensure the navy gets the capability it needs.
Mr Andrews will tell the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s surface fleet conference in Canberra today that it is expected that by 2030 there will be 300 submarines operating in this region.
While no official costings for the Future Frigate have emerged yet, ASPI analyst Andrew Davies estimated that eight big new vessels could cost close to $20 billion.
Mr Andrews will say the main role of the new frigates will be to deal with submarines.
The Future Frigates are expected to face more demanding operations and will need to be more capable than the Anzac class, Mr Andrews will say.
“They will be required to conduct a range of missions, from low-level constabulary roles through to regional conflict, but with a particular focus on anti-submarine warfare and theatre-level anti-submarine operations,” he will say.
“These requirements reflect the modernisation and expansion of regional submarine fleets that is under way, to the extent that by 2030 approximately 300 submarines are expected to be operating in the region.”
Operating along Australia’s coastline, northern approaches and throughout the Indo-Pacific would require the Future Frigate to have the range, endurance, sea-keeping qualities, survivability and weapons to support prolonged operations throughout the region and, when called to do so, globally.
Because of the threats they could face, the new vessels would be equipped with a range of offensive and defensive systems. They would have to be big enough to have room for future weapons and sensors.
“That’s one of the reasons why there is something of a global trend towards larger-sized frigates,” Mr Andrews will say.
Defence and industry are investigating options that include working out if the AWD hull is quiet enough for anti-submarine operations.
Foreign designs being considered include Britain’s Type 26 warship and the European FREMM frigates used by France and Italy, among others.
Mr Andrews says the government will be guided by key principles, including: the necessity for a well-integrated designer, builder and supplier team, preferencing mature designs of vessels rather than choosing to design a new class of vessel from scratch or undertaking large-scale modification of existing designs; thoroughly testing the capability the navy needed against more readily available military vessels; limiting the amount of changes to the design selected for Australian requirements; and spending more time at the beginning of the project on planning the design and build program.